General Update July 2004

July 23, 2004

Inside this issue:

  • Operational Debriefs – Ignore the In Orders
  • Statutory Declarations dispute update
  • Permanent stand-bys banned
  • Recent SCOM Policy Decisions
  • New Meal, Travel and Accommodation Allowances

Operational Debriefs – Ignore the In Orders

Today’s In Orders 2004/14 contains a new direction from the Department concerning operational debriefs, which are now described in 3 categories – Types 1, 2 and 3. Whilst the latter two Types appear reasonable, the new Type 1 procedure is definitely not.

2004/14 directs that “Type 1 operational debriefs must be held after all minor or routine incidents, ie incidents where the first alarm assignment was sufficient to handle the situation.” (That emphasis on “all” is theirs, not ours). If that sounds unnecessarily pedantic and patronising to you, then we agree. Not only is there is absolutely no reason to hold a debrief for a “routine” incident (think about it), but this blanket instruction from above robs every Station Commander of the discretion (and therefore professional dignity) to decide whether a debrief for that garbage tin alight really is warranted. The Union holds further concerns that the reporting process set out in the In Order is one-way – Stations are expected to report upwards, but there’s no reciprocal requirement for middle and senior management to report back down to front-line crews with any feedback/answers.

Members are therefore instructed to ignore the Department’s mandatory directive for Type 1 debriefs, and to instead call upon their own judgment and experience as professional fire officers exercise their own discretion when deciding whether or not to conduct operational debriefs.

Please note that there is nothing in this instruction to prevent members from conducting an operational debrief if and when the attending members consider it warranted.

Statutory Declarations dispute update

Members will recall that the Union’s Notice of 16 April 2004 reported the Department had tried to override your award rights by issuing In Orders 2004/6 which contained a policy on statutory declarations wherein the Department asserted that members may only submit Stat Decs in accordance with the NSW Oaths Act 1900. The In Order went further to assert that NSWFB employees may not submit Stat Decs in accordance with the Commonwealth’s Statutory Declarations Act 1959. The Department’s motive, of course, is to make it as difficult as possible for you to access your Personal/Carer’s Leave award entitlements. So much for the family friendly NSWFB.

The matter has been listed before Justice Boland of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW in Court Session for hearing on 13 September 2004. The Union filed written submissions on 25 June, and the Department is due to file their submissions by 26 July.

Permanent stand-bys banned

First it was Region West, now Region South. Middle management was this week again caught trying to undermine the proper intention of the permanent Award’s distinction between an “out duty” and “stand-by” by transporting members back to their station after the end of their standard shift and then deeming that shift to have been a stand-by rather than an out-duty. Why? Because compulsory out-duties are strictly limited to 8 per year, but there is no limit on the number of stand-bys a member can be directed to perform.

All permanent members are therefore instructed that stand-bys have been banned by the Union, effective immediately and that with the exception of dedicated relievers, each and every future movement from your base station to another station/location is to be regarded and counted as an out-duty.

Recent SCOM Policy Decisions

City of Sydney call rates and staffing levels

“That State Committee is opposed to any reduction of current minimum operational staff levels on individual appliances at the City of Sydney Fire Station, and in recognition of OH&S concerns State Committee calls upon the Department to increase staff levels at the City of Sydney Fire Station and to examine current alarm response protocols.”

City of Sydney salvage/rescue

“That the State Secretary’s report concerning the recent disputation and ongoing negotiations with the Department over the use of City of Sydney salvage/rescue to stand-by at other rescue stations be received, and that until such time as those negotiations have concluded and the State Committee resolves otherwise, it shall be Union policy that the City of Sydney salvage/rescue appliance should not be used to stand-by at any station (rescue accredited or not) other than those stations located within Zone South 1.”

Deferral of promotions to be discontinued

“That in the interest of fairness and equity for all members seeking placement on a Promotional Program, and in recognition of the fact that a merit system based on quotas of available Program positions has replaced the previously long-standing practice of unrestricted promotion based on seniority and the attainment of a universal pass mark, the State Committee henceforth resolves that the practice of allowing members to defer promotions when offered should be discontinued, provided that members should also be permitted to relinquish their rank and revert to their previous rank at any time.”

Aerial Pumper Qualifications

“That the FBEU State Committee recognises the need for firefighters to attain an appropriate level of experience before being trained in the operation of NSWFB Aerial Pumpers. The current level at which training can commence is Firefighter Level 4 which acknowledges the need to develop skills and experience in the driving and operation of medium rigid pumpers as well as develop and understand all facets of firefighting. The driving and operation of NSWFB Aerial Pumpers places great responsibilities upon firefighters, and operational firefighting standards should never be compromised because of budgetary expedience. Therefore, the FBEU State Committee maintains that the minimum rank at which all firefighters can be trained on Aerial Pumpers is to remain at Firefighter Level 4. Also that the process of becoming a trainee be as follows: Obtain the rank of FL4; pass the RTA HR licence theory assessment; be assessed for driving by a qualified assessor from Aerial Training before being permitted to drive back from calls; pass the RTA HR practical driver assessment; be trained by Aerial Training in all facets of operation of the Aerial Pumper to the level of an operator; be qualified by Aerial Training as a trainee/offsider for a minimum of one month or maximum of six months; be assessed by Aerial Training as competent to operate.”

Members travelling Interstate not to be required to wear uniform

“That the FBEU State Committee resolves that the practice by some managers within the NSWFB of requiring firefighters to wear uniform whilst traveling by air, ship, train, bus or private vehicle, whilst mixing with members of the general public, be discontinued immediately. Given the changing world environment, terrorism and a targeting of authority figures by disgruntled persons as well as the possibility that they may be mistaken for Police Officers, this practice could place firefighters at a heightened risk of physical or verbal abuse.”

Rejection of the proposed merger of Abermain and Weston Brigades

“That the Retained Sub-Branch Secretary’s report of his recent meeting with members on the proposed merger of Abermain and Weston Brigades be received and noted, and that State Committee hereby confirms the Union’s strident opposition to any such merger.”

Opposition to threatened closure 209 Station, Albury Civic

“That the Retained Sub-Branch Secretary’s report upon the Department’s repeated threats to close 209 Station Albury Civic and management’s recent direction that the station was not to be staffed by overtime if retained availability fell below four be received, and that State Committee resolves to oppose the closure of 209 Station or either a permanent or temporary basis. To this end, the State Secretary is authorised to impose and, if considered necessary, to amend or lift such industrial bans as he may consider necessary in the event that Region South management does not maintain that station on a 24 hour footing.”

Opposition to new US base in Australia

“That the correspondence from the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition dated 14 June 2004 be received and endorsed. Further, this meeting calls on the Australian Government to rescind its agreement with the United States announced on 5 June to host a new US training facility in Australia, and in doing so asserts that unfaltering support for US foreign policy contrary to United Nations resolutions will serve to compromise rather than strengthen Australia’s security. Rather, State Committee calls on the Australian Government to better defend our country by adopting a truly independent foreign policy and respecting the rights of all sovereign nations to independence, equality and self-determination.”

New Meal, Travel and Accommodation Allowances

Certain allowances in both the Permanent and Retained Awards increased on 1 July. A copy of the new schedule is attached here –  2004 Meal and Travel Rates.

Most of these increased rates reflect a 2% increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the last review in July 2003.  The accommodation, meal and incidental allowances have been determined at a level consistent with the reasonable allowance amounts for the 2004/2005 income year, as determined by the Australian Taxation Office in Determination 2004/19, leading to Gosford and Orange now being classified in the “other country centres” category.

Chris Read

State Secretary



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