General update, inc. extra bans

August 25, 2004

Inside this notice:

  • Sick leave management protocol banned
  • Medical certificates and diagnosis
  • ICMS banned
  • Vehicle inspection check sheets banned
  • FAN forms banned
  • Hand-held computers banned
  • Reminder of Union bans
  • Lismore staffing dispute
  • Public stampede on occurrence books?
  • Pants on fire
  • Coming clean on Award breaches
  • PSTP dispute update
  • Asbestos
  • Recent SCOM policy decisions
  • Briefly…

Sick Leave Management Protocol banned

Last Friday’s Commish’s Corner reported (correctly) that Commissioner Mullins had “held discussions with the Union regarding implementation of the Sick Leave Management Protocol that has been in Standing Orders for many years”. What the Commissioner didn’t mention was the Union’s very clear and loud NO in response. The Department has been warned in no uncertain terms that returning to a detested protocol which the Union defeated almost 10 years ago was not our idea of moving forward, and that a major dispute would result if management chose to continue down that path. We have every reason to believe they will.

All members are hereby reminded that the Sick Leave Management Protocol contained within NSWFB Standing Orders remains banned, and that no Union member should therefore help administer or otherwise participate in that protocol until further notice.

Medical Certificates and Diagnosis

Further to the above item, and contrary to an express agreement with the Union, the Department has recommenced writing to members who have provided a medical certificate which does not include a diagnosis of their illness. The Union understands that many doctors do not wish to place a diagnosis on a patient’s medical certificate (it’s against AMA policy), nor can they be forced to. Equally important is our members’ right to privacy – and dignity.

Discussions are being held with the Department regarding this, for the meantime if a member receives one of these letters, they are advised to fax a copy to the Union office and to ignore it. If any member who receives one of these letters is subsequently docked leave and/or pay, then they should contact the Union Office immediately.

ICMS banned

The Department recently commenced preparations for the introduction of its new Incident Control Management System (ICMS), faxing Station Commanders and requesting the provision of names and other details of members from their Station/Platoon. Members are advised that there is not as yet any agreement between the Union and Department for ICMS to be introduced and as such, members are instructed that they are not to participate in or assist the introduction of ICMS until notified otherwise by the Union.

Vehicle Inspection Check Sheets banned

The Department is also now attempting to trial new “Vehicle Inspection Check Sheets” in select stations. Members are advised that there is not as yet any agreement between the Union and Department for a trial of Vehicle Inspection Check Sheets and as such, members are instructed that they are not to participate in the trial of this new reporting system until notified otherwise by the Union.

FAN forms banned

The Department introduced False Alarm Notification (FAN) forms via In Orders 2004/06, without consultation with or agreement from the Union. Members are therefore instructed that, effective immediately, they are not to order, complete or issue FAN forms until notified otherwise by the Union.

Hand-held Computers banned

Another productivity-driven project to hit the Union office has been hand-held computers, which the Department is now hoping to trial in a handful of stations to record hydrant checks. Members are advised that there is not as yet any agreement between the Union and Department for a trial of hand-held computers and as such, members are instructed that they are not to participate in or assist in the use of this equipment until notified otherwise by the Union.

Reminder of other Union bans

Permanent stand-bys – All permanent members are reminded that stand-bys have been banned by the Union, effective 6 July 2004 and that with the exception of dedicated relievers, each and every movement from your base station to another station/location since that date is to be regarded and counted as an out-duty.

BRIMS – All members are reminded that the Bushfire Risk Information Management System (BRIMS) has been banned, effective 6 July 2004, and is therefore not to be used or accessed by any member until further notice.

Since issuing our ban on BRIMS, the Union has received notification from the union rep at National Parks and Wildlife (NPWS) that PSA members there had banned BRIMS too:

Dear comrades…an executive member of our vocational branch brought this to my attention and like yourselves we are sick and tired of having additional tasks dumped upon members with no additional resourcing. More recently this has been the case particularly with our fire management responsibilities.
So to start all government reporting is subject to work bans including BRIM’s and Section 62a Risk Management Plan audits and the list continues to grow every day….we have a list of about 20 tasks currently the subject of workbans.
I just thought I would let you know that there is some solidarity here and wish your members all the very best….cheers

(* NPWS is now part of the Department of Environment and Conservation)

Lismore staffing dispute

A concerted campaign by FBEU members at Lismore for 10/14 staffing (the permanent staffing is currently S/O and 3 on the Back to Back Roster) has secured the broad support of the Lismore community, including the local media, the MP and the Council (which is also promising the necessary extra $’s).

The Minister responded to this growing call last month by dispatching his Commissioner to Lismore to assure the locals there was no need for the extra staff after all. Commissioner Mullins did however promise 24 hour staffing – but on a reduced and unprecedented level of only S/O and 1 between 1800 and 0800 hours. That proposal was flatly rejected by the Union’s State Committee as a direct threat to safe minimum staffing. Negotiations continue.

Public stampede on Occurrence Books?

When the Department last year released a retained member’s attendance records from his station’s occurrence book to his primary employer, without his knowledge or consent, he was summarily sacked from his primary job. The Union has since taken this member’s case to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, arguing that the release of personal information in this way is a breach of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW).

In its feeble defence, the Department filed an affidavit which states (in part) that:
“Fire station occurrence books are public documents and are routinely accessed by the public.”

Really? A free t-shirt to the first member who can fax us evidence of just one occasion when your stn’s occurrence book was “routinely” accessed by the public (open days don’t count!).

Pants on fire

We make no comment other than to observe that with the ink on our new 2004 Awards barely dry after more than 6 months of open conflict between the Union and the Department, out popped this gem in last Friday’s Commish’s Corner (No. 311):

“The additional 1% that I was able to convince the Government should be paid to firefighters…….”

Coming clean on Award breaches

In a blatant Award breach, In Orders 2004/14 directs that “the firefighters light blue dress shirt is not an approved item for cleaning through this contract service.” The bad news for the Department is that there is no such restriction or exclusion within the current awards (nor indeed on FB socks or t-shirts, either). The Union is also concerned that the new dry-cleaning procedure and policy (which the Union was never consulted about, despite its clearly award-based nature) has introduced a raft of new responsibilities for Station Commanders, including (but not limited to) “the inspection of returned items, to account for the accuracy and quality of the service.”

Of interest to the Union’s officials, and doubtless to every Union member, is the stated Department’s fear that if every permanent and retained firefighter had only 3 dress shirts dry-cleaned per week, then the additional cost to the Department would run to more than $11M pa. That, comrades, is the equivalent of a 4% wage increase for every permanent and retained firefighter in the state. Stay tuned.

PSTP Dispute update

The Union and the Department have held further talks over the last week and whilst the PSTP remains banned, progress has been made with regard to the training matrix for firefighters from all recruit classes of 2002 and 2003. The pre-existing AFC modules still remain current for these classes. However, for classes 1/02 and 2/02 (only), the parties have now agreed that the 40 members of those two recruit classes may and should complete the following two PSTP competencies
PUATE002A Work Autonomously
PUATE004A Work effectively in a public safety organization
through OTEN by the end of November, thereby ensuring that all members of those two classes are at the same level. Members seeking further information or advice regarding the PSTP dispute can contact Senior Industrial Officer, Michael Wright, at the Union office.


Not surprisingly, the heightened awareness of asbestos at the moment has seen a number of members contact the Union with concerns over the asbestos suits used by the NSWFB from the mid 1950’s right through until the mid 1980’s. Whilst these suits weren’t often used at fires, a number of members recall them being used during training and drills, after which they were left with a white powdery residue and dust throughout the station.

There is of course the possibility that exposure occurred, however the Union does not have any evidence to suggest that persons wearing these suits have been exposed to asbestos. Still, members concerned about their health should visit their doctor and if there is any sign of illness resulting from a possible exposure, seek referral to the Dust Diseases Board.

For more information members can contact the Union or the

Dust Diseases Board
Phone: 1800 550 027 (toll free)
Fax: 02 8223 6699

Recent SCOM policy decisions

Minimum periods of service under Clause 14

“1.    That whilst reaffirming its support for the principle of minimum operational service for promotion which underpins subclause 14.8 (and 14.10 prior to the 2004 Award), State Committee also acknowledges that subclause 14.8 in its current form has proven itself to be impractical, if not entirely unworkable. Further, State Committee recognises that despite having been in operation since May 2000, the operational service requirement of subclause 14.8 has generally been neither observed by the Department, nor enforced by the Union.
2.    In view of point 1, State Committee determines that:
a)    no action should be taken to prevent any candidates for this year’s IPP and/or SOPP Pre-Entry Tests from sitting either of those Tests on the basis of subclause 14.8;
b)    the Union and Department should agree to suspend subclause 14.8 of the Award, with such suspension to be applied retrospectively from 24 February 2000 onwards, pending the development of a revised subclause 14.8 which shall be presented to the rank and file membership of the Union for adoption, amendment or rejection at the 2004 AGM; and
c)    if adopted, the provisions of the revised subclause 14.8 referred to in point 2(b) above should take effect on and from 1 January 2005 and be strictly enforced thereafter.
3.    In consideration of the confusion and uncertainty amongst members sitting the 2004 Inspectors’ Pre-Entry Test commencing next Thursday 15 July, State Committee considers that the number of positions on the 2004 Inspectors’ Promotion Program should be extended from the previously advertised 17 to 20, and therefore directs that the Union’s agreement for this extension be immediately conveyed to the Department.”

Agreement to ESS

“That the correspondence from the Department concerning its proposed Electronic Self Service (ESS) for improved access to payroll and personnel information for firefighters and dated 5 July 2004 be received, that the positive feedback from numerous rank and file members be noted, and that State Committee accepts and agrees to support the implementation of this proposed service.”

Clarification of Clause 28

“That firefighters and officers who are transferred to a Regional Communications Centre (Newcastle, Katoomba or Wollongong) or Regional BA/Hazmat Section (Newcastle or Wollongong) in accordance with the provisions of subclauses or of the Award should only be considered to have been permanently transferred to that Regional Transfer Area when they have met the transfer requirements of subclause 28.3.4, and must otherwise be returned to the GSA if they are transferred out of that Centre/Section pursuant to subclause pending their permanent transfer to that Regional Transfer Area pursuant to subclause 28.3.4. To avoid doubt, firefighters and officers who qualify for a permanent transfer to that Regional Transfer Area whilst waiting to complete their minimum period of service within the relevant Centre/Section may still accept their offer of transfer, even though they may not yet be eligible for transfer out of that Centre/Section pursuant to subclause”

Briefly …

  • The Audit Office has invited the FBEU to participate in its 2005 review of rescue services,
  • The final report from the Parliamentary Inquiry in Fire Service Funding that was initially due in May and was put back (twice) to 17 July is still MIA;
  • The Union’s offices at 267 Sussex Street will go to auction on 7 September;
  • Two additional gazetted public holidays over the ’04/’05 New Year period will see an additional 16 hrs of consolidated leave credited to all permanents (Award cl. 6.4 refers);
  • The Union understands that secret negotiations between the Police Association and NSW Government over FBEU-style D&D arrangement are now underway.

Chris Read
State Secretary



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