Award negotiation update #2
November 7, 2003
Whilst our negotiations had progressed (albeit slowly) over the last fortnight, they took a decided turn for the worse this week when the Government confirmed its offer to be a firm, flat 3% per annum over the life of a new two-year Award (ie, 3% in Feb 2004 and another 3% in Feb 2005). If you think that’s unacceptable, then so too does the Union’s State Committee.
To make matters far, far worse, the Government is refusing to acknowledge any of the new work practices undertaken by members over the last three years. Why? Because (in their view) none of those extra duties you’ve taken on in the last 3 years have produced a bottom-line cost saving, so (in their view) they’re worth nothing. Zero. Zip.
That’s right – your many new and/or expanded duties (eg, PIP’s, SCIDS, CARS, Log Books, SABRE, new radio procedures, FireEd, CFU’s, etc. etc, etc) haven’t produced any immediate savings in the balance books, so the Government isn’t going to give you a zac for them. It doesn’t matter to them that these initiatives will lead to long term cost savings, improved services, or reduced incidents, injuries and fatalities – none of these extra duties are worth squat as far as your employer is concerned.
All of that leads us to ask: if we’re not going to be recognised for performing this extra work, then why should we do it? The simple answer is that we shouldn’t – and we won’t.
Several notices have been issued over the past 3+ years reminding members of the Union’s standing policy banning all new extra duties/roles/equipment until expressly advised otherwise by the Union. One such example (dated 13/08/01) read:
Reminder re New and/or Extra Duties – No Agreement = No Work
The Department has recently been leaning on our Inspector members to undertake new duties, such as investigating members’ workers comp claims and monitoring the use of non-m/c’s. There is a standing Union instruction to all members that no new and/or additional duties should be undertaken unless agreement exists between the Department and the Union for members to do so. As neither of the above extra duties have been agreed to (or even discussed), both are hereby banned.
Not taking on new work practices is fundamental to your next wage rise, because each new duty is a ‘productivity’ trade-off which the Department consistently argues we do not make. Only after each new work practice – no matter how small or seemingly insignificant – has been acknowledged by the Department, and the return in increased wages agreed to, should we participate. Otherwise, the Department can forget about any new duties because firefighters’ wages reflect our present workload and responsibilities – no more and no less. Put simply, if you haven’t done it before then don’t do it now – your next wage rise is likely to depend on it.
The fact is that there are a huge raft of new work practices – including new forms, ordering and reporting processes, training initiatives, inspections and supervisory responsibilities – which were never agreed to. Despite the above ban, we (collectively) allowed many of these new/extra duties to slide through on the expectation that we’d be rewarded come this Award round. Regrettably, the Government’s provocative position this week has revealed just how misplaced that expectation was.
The Government’s new approach to public sector wage rises is basically to refuse any increase above CPI, thereby (theoretically) maintaining wages at the current “real” levels – but no more. That might possibly be OK so long as they weren’t going to expect us to carry out any new/extra work – but they have, they do and they will continue to do so.
In light of the Government’s stance the Union will shortly be left with no option but to place a ban every new work practice introduced since the last Award negotiations in 2000. It follows that we will also be banning any and every other new work practice which the Department attempts to introduce into the future. If we do get to that point (and it appears inevitable that we very soon will) then it won’t be the Union which brought the Brigades to a grinding halt, but rather the Government’s own patently stupid wages policy. They will have no-one to blame but themselves.
The Union’s officials are presently compiling a list of post-2000 extra duties which may now be banned. We are also looking to future initiatives, starting with the new communications and response Standard Operational Guidelines scheduled to commence next Sunday.
When this week we raised the obvious productivity inherent in the new SOG’s, the Department’s reps responded: “there’s nothing in that, it’s just a new system”. Yet it was only last month that Commissioner Mullins described the new SOG’s as “the largest and most significant overhaul of radio communications procedures in over two decades”. So which is it – just some minor change, or a significantly large and complex overhaul that we, the members, are expected to learn and deliver? The answer, it would seem, is whatever you’d like it to be – provided it doesn’t result in you getting one cent more for your efforts.
Stay tuned, and Stay United!