2004 Annual General Meeting results

November 29, 2004

On Thursday, 25th November 2004 meetings of members were held throughout the State to consider motions on the AGM Agenda. These meetings were held at 16 locations: Huntingwood, Wollongong, Newcastle, Gosford, Sutherland, Sydney, East Maitland, Tamworth, Temora, Nowra, Orange, Kempsey, Bathurst, Broken Hill, Wellington and Tweed Heads. The collective results of those meetings are as follows:

1. From the Senior Officers’ Sub-Branch re areas of responsibility

“That the Senior Officers’ Sub-Branch requests the support of the Union in negotiating the splitting of zones North 1&2 and zone South 2 into two zones respectively. The work load, the large distances travelled and the number of stations within these areas render them unmanageable. The splitting of the zones would allow Operational Commanders the ability to properly manage a suitable number of stations and effectively deal with the health and welfare of the firefighters within their area of command.”


2. From the Senior Officers’ Sub-Branch re wage relativities

“That the Senior Officers’ Sub-Branch seeks the support of the Union to negotiate the restoration of wage parity to the rank of Inspector to reflect the percentile rate of 150 %, as compared to that of a Qualified fire fighter. This restoration is to be included in the upcoming special case negotiations and be included as an Award entitlement for Senior Officers.”


3. From the Retained Sub-Branch re minimum stand-by payments

“That when a Retained firefighter is required to stand-by to cover a staff shortage they should be entitled to a minimum four hours’ payment, and that the Retained Award should therefore be amended to reflect same.”


4. From the Country Sub-Branch re the provision of meals

“That in relation to the provision of fireground refreshments and meals in country areas the Department be constrained to the requirement of having these available at 2 and 4 hours respectively as applies to other areas of the State ie. removal of the 3 hour lee-way. Further, that the decision as to what constitutes an acceptable refreshment / meal, whilst not freeing the Department of its responsibilities in relation to the welfare of it’s employees, be at the discretion of the members on the fireground after consultation with the relevant Senior Officer. Those members who choose not to partake of the food provided shall then be entitled to claim an allowance as per the Award, free from intimidation or recrimination from management.”


5. From the State Committee re the provision of meals

“That in relation to the provision of fireground refreshments and meals in country areas the Department be constrained to the requirement of having these available at 2 and 4 hours respectively as applies to other areas of the State ie. removal of the 3 hour lee-way, and that that the Awards should therefore be amended to reflect same.”


6. From the State Committee re medical emergencies

“That the motion (repeated immediately here below) that was submitted by member Comrade S. Flynn for inclusion on the 2004 AGM agenda and subsequently rejected by that member’s Sub-Branch:

‘The members of this union resolve to oppose the expansion of the NSWFB into the field of medical emergencies beyond basic first aid assistance until the following matters are resolved to the satisfaction of the unions rank and file at a subsequent general meeting of members:

i) The NSW Government agree to amend the Fire Brigades Act to provide for indemnity against claims of medical negligence against firefighters administering medical assistance during operational duties.

ii) The NSW Government agree to commit to no loss of jobs, wages or conditions for members of the FBEU or any other union as a result of changes to the roles and responsibilities of firefighters as far as emergency medicine is concerned.

iii) The unions president and secretary meet with the elected representatives of NSW Ambulance Service employees and ensure that this union will not be undermining the industrial interests of those workers during their industrial dispute in recognition of the most fundamental principle of unionism that being that an injury to one is an injury to all,’

be received and noted, but not supported. In resolving this way, this meeting:

a) notes the potential uncertainty of the scope of the term ‘field of medical emergencies beyond basic first aid assistance’;

b) expects that this policy, if adopted, would preclude the placement of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on fire appliances, which would in turn present obvious concern for the membership at large given that heart failure is understood to be the largest single killer of firefighters on the fireground;

c) believes that the first nominated requirement of the NSW Government at the motion’s point (i), being the amendment of the FB Act, is unnecessary given the existing provision of Sections 7(1) and 78 of that Act:

Protection from liability
78. A matter or thing done by the Minister, the Commissioner, any member of staff of the Department, any member of a fire brigade or any person acting under the authority of the Commissioner does not, if the matter or thing was done in good faith for the purposes of executing this or any other Act, subject such a person personally, or the Crown, to any action, liability, claim or demand.

General authority to protect persons and property
7(1) The Commissioner is authorised to take measures anywhere in the State for protecting persons from injury or death and property from damage, whether or not fire or a hazardous material incident is involved.

d) questions the practical worth of the second nominated requirement of the NSW Government at the motion’s point (ii), being its commitment to no loss of jobs or conditions of any union’s members, given the Carr Government’s industrial track record; and

e) understands that the third nominated requirement at point (iii) has already effectively been met given the State Committee of Management’s resolution of 27 August 2004 to write and seek the views of the Ambulance Service employees’ union prior to further consideration by the Union of the Department’s proposed installation of AEDs on fire appliances.”


7. From the State Committee re defibrillators

“That the Department’s proposal to progressively train all members and equip every first response pumper and rescue appliance with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) for use by firefighters in the event that a fellow member suffers a cardiac event at an incident or training be received, noted and endorsed as a positive firefighter health and safety initiative.”


8. From the State Committee re Operational Support – periods of service

“That this meeting reaffirms its support for the Union’s preferred policy position that no time spent in an Operational Support position should count towards the Award’s minimum service requirements for promotion at Clause 13, and therefore calls for subclause 14.8 of the Award to be amended to reflect same. In the interim the Union’s officials are to ensure that the existing service requirements of subclause 14.8 are strictly observed on and from 1 January 2005.

In resolving this way, this meeting accepts that subclause 14.8 in its current form has proven itself to be impractical, if not entirely unworkable, and therefore demands its replacement with the following alternative subclause:

14.8 An occupant of an Operational Support position who had not completed a minimum period of service required by Clause 13 for promotion prior to taking up that position shall not be eligible for promotion until they satisfy the requirements of subclauses 14.8.1 and 14.8.2.

14.8.1 Length of service for the occupants of Operational Support positions shall for the purposes of Clause 13 (only) be determined by firstly calculating the total time spent from the date of an employee’s promotion to their current substantive rank to the present day, secondly deducting the total time spent by the employee in an Operational Support position since that promotion and thirdly, then adding any additional time accrued under subclause 14.8.2.

14.8.2 For a year, or part thereof, spent in an Operational Support position to count towards any minimum period of service required by Clause 13, Operational Support employees must be temporarily reassigned and attached to a fire station for a minimum of two months in that year, and for a minimum block of 28 days at any one time where they shall perform the firefighting duties associated with their substantive rank. For the purposes of this subclause, “year” shall mean the 12 month period from the date (or subsequent anniversary date) of the employee’s appointment to that Operational Support position.”


9. From the State Committee re Union Communications

‘That this meeting recognises the need for the Union to adopt effective and contemporary communication strategies and to review its approach in line with technological change and usage patterns.

Prior to the mid 1990s, the Union’s communications strategy was to post notices to stations and to publish a journal which was half editorial / half advertisements. In the latter half of the 1990s, the introduction of fax machines into members’ workplaces allowed the Union to begin faxing out notices. The Union also introduced a comprehensive website to inform members of current developments. The switch to faxing notices gave members information in a much more timely and relevant way. Further, the reproduction of those notices on the website introduced a useful resource for members to track both current and past industrial developments. In 1999 the journal was overhauled in terms of layout and all advertising was removed.

The Union continues to fax out notices and to post same to its website. The journal is still produced, although often with significant lags between issues. With the increasing complexity of modern industrial relations, the lead times and rigidities of fixed publication dates do not provide an effective means of communicating with members in a timely manner on matters of importance. Further, the printing and distribution costs of the journal are significant and with the last issue costing in excess of $30,000.00, pose an annual cost well in excess of $100,000. It is regrettable, but nonetheless true that even after expending such amounts, hundreds of members do not receive the journal because they change addresses without notifying the Union office.

This year saw the completion of the installation of internet computer facilities at all NSWFB stations and workplaces, and a recent ABS survey found that over 50% of all households are also now connected. Given the universal access to computers at members’ workplaces and their increasing availability in members’ homes, this meeting considers that the following changes should be made to the Union’s Communications Strategy:

1) the printed quarterly journal should be discontinued;

2) the Union should produce an Annual Report that includes reports from the Union’s officers on the operation and performance of the Union. It shall also report on SCOM decisions, the Union’s finances, member retirements etc and would generally represent a record of the Union’s previous 12 months activities;

3) the Union’s website should be overhauled to provide:

i) Members’ Discussion Forums: These should be strictly for the use and benefit of identified Union members (one general Union forum, one forum for each Sub-Branch and one forum for retired Associate members). These forums would enable full and robust interactive discussions on Union policy, activities and industrial concerns amongst members and elected officials. Whilst all members should be permitted to read all forums and contribute to the General Union Forum, only Sub-Branch members could post message to their respective Sub-Branch forum. This meeting considers that it is not only appropriate, but necessary that such forums be moderated in accordance with an explicit FBEU Editorial Policy. The State Secretary, or his/her delegate, should be responsible for the moderation of all forums, provided that this role shall be shared with the relevant Sub-Branch Secretary in the case of Sub-Branch forums.

ii) NSW Firefighter E-Journal: The current printed journal should be replaced by an evolving and constantly updated e-journal where officials and members may submit timely articles, opinion pieces and the like that do not necessarily fit into the forum format. Such submitted articles should also be subject to moderation by the State Secretary in the context of the Editorial Policy.

iii) Union Notices: these should continue to be posted up in a dedicated area.

iv) a member calendar system where all Union meetings, functions and member send offs, etc. could be posted up for use by both current and Associate members etc.

4) The State Committee of Management should develop and introduce an Editorial Policy in conjunction with the introduction of these other reforms during the first quarter of 2005. This Editorial Policy, which should prescribe what can and cannot be published, and in what form, should then be endorsed, amended or rejected by the membership at the Union’s 2005 Annual General Meeting. Whilst not limiting subsequent deliberations on the matter, it should:

a) prohibit material that is deemed to be racist, sexist, homophobic, defamatory or otherwise discriminatory;

b) prohibit the use of the forums and E Journal by members in their capacity as NSWFB management;

c) require that materials published remain relevant to and in the interests of Union members. Whilst clearly subjective, this arm of the policy is considered crucial to keep our communications relevant and focused.”


10. From the Union’s Registered Rules re Honoraria – President

“That in accordance with Rule 18(7), this meeting endorses the payment to the Union’s President of an annual honorarium of $1 for the 12 month period from the 2003 AGM.”


11. From the Union’s Registered Rules re Honoraria – Returning Officer

“That in accordance with Rule 22(7), this meeting endorses the payment of the Returning Officer’s annual honorarium of $340 for the 12 month period from the 2003 AGM, as adjusted by 4% firefighter wage movements over that time.”


12. From the Union’s Registered Rules re Appointment of Returning Officer

“That in accordance with Rule 22(1), this meeting re-appoints Comrade J. Casey as Returning Officer for the ensuing 12 months through until the Union’s 2005 Annual General Meeting.”


13. From the Union’s Registered Rules re Appointment of Auditor

“That the accounting firm of A.J. Williams & Co. be re-appointed as the Union’s auditors for a further period of two years and until the 2006 Annual General Meeting in accordance with Rule 40.”


Jim Gillen
Acting State Secretary
Friday 29th November, 2004



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