D&D settlement explained (Pt 2)

June 4, 2002

Rehabilitation and retraining for permanent firefighters

Some permanent members have expressed concern over the rehabilitation/retraining program in the proposed D&D settlement. In particular, members have questioned the likelihood of the Department finding additional alternative duties jobs for permanently incapacitated members when most of the Brigades’ traditional “light duties” jobs have all but disappeared.

Be assured that your elected officials have shared this concern throughout this dispute, and that it remained as one of the most difficult hurdles for us to overcome. However, we now believe that the agreement reached on this issue (and which is reproduced word for word below) makes it sufficiently clear that the re-deployment of permanently incapacitated members within the Brigades should remain the rule rather than becoming the exception.

“The objective of the rehabilitation/retraining program is to place every permanently incapacitated firefighter in a suitable position within the NSWFB. The NSWFB will make all reasonable efforts to ensure that an incapacitated firefighter is so placed, including by identifying potential employment opportunities as soon as practicable and directing the rehabilitation/retraining program to that end, and in consultation with the firefighter concerned.

Where the NSWFB believes that, notwithstanding every reasonable effort to the contrary, a suitable position may not be found for an incapacitated firefighter who is undergoing the rehabilitation/retraining program, the firefighter and the FBEU (unless the firefighter expressly declines to agree to the FBEU being informed) shall be informed at the earliest possible opportunity.

An incapacitated firefighter’s employment will not be terminated because of the lack of a suitable position within the NSWFB without the firefighter’s consent. In the event that the firefighter does not consent, an adequate opportunity will be given to the firefighter concerned and the FBEU (unless the firefighter expressly declines to agree to the FBEU being informed) to consider the NSWFB’s position that no suitable position is available and to put that opinion into dispute in accordance with the dispute resolution clause in the award.

The parties agree that it is anticipated that the rehabilitation/retraining program and forward planning associated with the program will minimise the likelihood that any incapacitated firefighter will be terminated because at the end of the rehabilitation/retraining program, a suitable position is not available.”

Some of the more obvious safeguards for permanent members in this agreement are:

(a) It’s not ambiguous – the Dept. must make “all reasonable efforts” to “place every permanently incapacitated firefighter in a suitable position within the NSWFB”;

(b) It’s not just about existing job vacancies – the Dept. will be required to look at both currentand “potential employment opportunities”; and

(c) The Dept. can’t leave it until the last minute to say ‘sorry, there’s no job available’. The member and the Union must both be “informed at the earliest possible opportunity” if the Dept.“believes that … a suitable position may not be found”, at which point the Union can (and will)“put that opinion into dispute” – provided, of course, that you’re an FBEU member.

Chris Read
State Secretary