Members’ entitlements for the bushfire emergency

January 10, 2002

1. All members: Refreshments and Meals

Both permanent and retained members are entitled to refreshments after two hours attendance at an incident and to a substantial meal after four hours at that incident, followed by a further substantial meal each and every four hours thereafter. For example, for a 13 hour incident you should receive refreshments after the first two hours, and a substantial meal on the fourth, eighth and twelfth hours. Members should note that refreshments only fall due once during an incident (after the first two hours), but after that they are then superseded by substantial meals every fourth hour. So in the above example, refreshments would still fall due after 2 hours, but would not fall due on the sixth or tenth hours.

Whilst the provision of refreshments and meals is clearly tied to attendance at incidents, it is reasonable in the current emergency for many Brigades to be considered to have been attending one continuous (and very large) incident. That is to say, members responding from one incident to another in rapid succession who couldn’t return to their station/base for over four hours would still be entitled to both refreshments and a substantial meal – even though they may havetechnically attended more than one incident. And the bushfires aside, if (for example) City of Sydney’s Flyer was responded to so many successive calls that its members could not return to their Station for over two hours, then refreshments should be provided.

The only exception to this rule during the current emergency is for those retained members who were “stood down” (for want of a better term) and accommodated overnight. These retained members (only) would not be entitled to refreshments, meals or those allowances for the period for which they were stood down, although this is explained more fully further on at point no. 5 of this notice.

OH&S considerations dictate that the Union is consistent in demanding the provision of meals in preference to the payment of allowances after the event. The awards provide a clear incentive for the Department to do so, because refreshment and meal allowances become payable if:
a) members did not receive any refreshments / meals (as the case may be); or
b) the refreshments / meals (as the case may be) were provided, but arrived too late; or
c) the refreshments / meals (as the case may be) were provided, but were not of an acceptable or appropriate standard.

In fairness to the Department, the Union doesn’t expect every refreshment or meal to arriveexactly on time (though they should still be close) and we’d encourage members to be reasonable in making all claims.

It’s also the case that the appropriate allowance should be claimed if refreshments or meals were provided on time, but were not of a satisfactory standard. Acceptable refreshments are generally in the form of both hot and cold drinks together with light snacks (such as biscuits). Substantial meals, however, have proven to be a bit more controversial.

The awards define a “substantial meal” as “a meal similar in standard to that provided by domestic airlines to inflight passengers travelling interstate economy class.” Whilst this is only a guide, it does provide some indication of the sort of meal which should be provided (such as hot meat dishes with vegetables, etc). We’ve had reports of some members being fed two slices of buttered bread (but with no filling), and others only a couple of apples and a can of soft drink. Suffice it to say that neither of these could be considered to be “substantial” meals. Again, members are encouraged to exercise judgement (without compromising your award rights) when assessing whether or not the meals you received could rightly be considered to be “substantial” – both in terms of their quantity and their quality.

And finally, members with special dietary needs (ie, diabetic, vegetarian, halal, etc.) who have notified the Department of same are also entitled to have their needs catered for. It follows that the allowances are again payable if these needs were not met.

The allowances for both permanent and retained members are currently as follows:

Refreshment Allowance = $9.25
Meal Allowance = $18.50

2. Permanent members: Recalls

a) Members who used their own vehicles to transport themselves from the point of recall to another work location (eg from Chullora or Rosehill to the Blue Mtns) are entitled to claim km’s from their initial point of recall to the assigned work location, and back again. This is effectively the same as performing a Stand-By whilst on shift.

b) The volume of recalls has meant that the Department has generally been unable to return many members’ firefighting gear to their base station. It follows that members who have transported their own firefighting gear both to and from a recall during this emergency are entitled to claim return km’s from their base station to the point of recall, and back again to their base station.

c) Many members have apparently been recalled – often travelling long distances – only to be told upon reporting for duty that they were no longer required. Whilst members in this situation would ordinarily be entitled to only two hours overtime (see subclause 9.5.1), agreement has been reached with the Department whereby all members recalled during the current emergency will now be entitled to a minimum of four hours pay at overtime rates pursuant to subclause 9.6.1.

d) Members recalled from annual or long service leave are reminded to claim their additional consolidated leave entitlement (by way of report) under subclause 9.5.3:

9.5.3 An employee who is on annual leave or long service leave and who reports for duty to attend an incident shall, in addition to payment pursuant to subclause 9.1, be credited with consolidated leave equal to the amount of time so worked.

3. Permanent members: Miscellaneous

Some members have advised that they were unable to report for their rostered shifts due to road closures. Similarly, other members have reported that they were forced to stay home in order to protect their own residences, whilst others again have reported having assisted in local firefighting operations whilst off-duty. The Department has indicated that it will review applications from members in these circumstances on a case by case basis which, if accepted, may result in special (paid) leave or overtime (as the case may be) being approved.

4. Retained members: Normal Award Provisions to Apply

The Union and the Department have agreed that the provisions of Clause 27 (Attendance at Major Emergencies) of the retained Award will (generally) not now apply. Accordingly, members who have attended the bushfires either before, during or after 1800 Hrs on 28 December 2001 should submit claims in accordance with the general provisions of the Award (including subclause 6.9 – Overtime, as reproduced at the end of this notice).

Subject to point no. 5, Overnight Accommodation, all kilometre and meal allowances remain unaffected and should therefore be claimed as you would for any standard brigade response.

5. Retained members: Overnight Accommodation

For those retained members who were accommodated overnight, the Union and the Department have agreed to suspend the operation of the Award’s provision which says you must be paid continuously from the time you leave your own stn until the time you return to your own stn (subclause Please note that this suspension applies only to members who were accommodated, and then only between work on successive days.

Members who were accommodated should claim for all time worked from their “clock on” time on any given day through until such time as they were either “stood down” (if staying again overnight), or their return to their own station. Such members therefore remain entitled to all award entitlements (including overtime and allowances) for any and all time away from their station, save for any period of overnight “stand down” time.

Whilst this arrangement should provide all retained members with outcomes superior to those available under Clause 27, agreement was also reached on a ‘No Disadvantage’ test. Members who believe that they may have received a more favourable outcome (for any particular period of duty) under Clause 27 should contact the Union office for further advice.

6. Retained members: December 2001 payments

With the exception of the provisions applying to members who were accommodated overnight (see point 5 above), our agreement with the Department essentially means that all retained members will now be paid as per normal, irrespective of Clause 27 or the bushfire emergency. In other words, all standard payments (including overtime) apply.

The need to finalise these pay procedures and ensure that all members were paid for work performed during the better part of December led the Union to agree with the Department on special arrangements for the December pays. Accordingly, all members will still be paid for all work up to and including 27 December in the first January pay run, although bushfire attendees will not be paid for any work between 28 December and 31 December until the second pay run of the month. In other words, retained members who did not attend the bushfire emergency will be paid as usual for all work performed in the month of December on 15 January, but members who did attend the bushfire emergency will now receive the balance of their December payments (ie for 28, 29 , 30 and 31 December) on 30 January.

Retained Overtime

Extract from the Crown Employees (NSWFB Retained Firefighting Staff) Award 2001:


6.9.1 Where an employee works in excess of ten (10) consecutive hours, such employee shall be paid at overtime rates for the hours worked in excess of ten (10). Provided that the provisions of this subclause shall not apply to employees receiving payment under either Clause 27, Attendance at Major Emergencies, or subclause 6.8, Standing By for Non-Available Staff.

6.9.2 Overtime shall be paid for at the rate of time and one half for the first two (2) hours and at the rate of double time thereafter, for the rate(s) prescribed for the employee’s classification, provided that all overtime shall be paid to the half hour in accordance with subclause

(Note: All overtime claims by retained members must currently be submitted by way of miscellaneous voucher. New time sheets which allow for such claims are expected to be available shortly).

Chris Read
State Secretary



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