Howard’s attack on your awards and more

April 22, 2005

Inside this notice:

  • Howard’s attack on your awards
  • Unilateral amendment of timesheets and vouchers
  • In brief

Howard’s Attack on your Awards

What Federal Government Reforms Mean for NSW

“One of the Federal Govt’s first priorities if it takes over the NSW IR system will be to try to move state public servants onto AWAs, Maurice Blackburn Cashman principal Bob Whyburn has told WFNSW. If Premier Bob Carr resists putting public servants onto AWAs, the Federal Govt could withhold funding, leaving Carr caught “between a rock and a hard place”, Whyburn said. The Federal Govt would also likely remove the right for all workers to collectively bargain; awards would go “out the door”; EAs would be almost “impossible” to get up; leaving AWAs as “the go”, Whyburn said.”

From Workforce NSW, 22 April 2005

Members are all familiar with our Awards and the protection they provide for your wages and conditions. A number of you have contacted the Union and had your entitlements enforced through the assistance of your Union by negotiation, or through the Industrial Relations Commission, either by conciliation where agreement is reached, or by arbitration, where the Commission has to tell the Department to pay you what you are legally entitled to.

Your Awards, within the State IR system, has meant that firefighters have been able to fight and retain conditions superior to those of most other workers. For example your Permanent Award contains some 49 matters, which it sets in stone for the life of the Award, not to mention regular increases in pay.

This is all about to change.

The Howard Government’s application of the Corporations power will see the destruction of the State IR system, forcing Unions like ours into the arena of the Workplace Relations Act 1996.  This Act will enforce Howard’s agenda of gutting awards and in turn destroy the conditions that firefighters have fought long and hard for. Under this Act the award will be stripped back to only 20 allowable matters.

A sobering example is that the Death and Disability Award would cease to exist.

It’s also compelling to see which parts of our permanent Award would be lost under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. The retained Award would suffer a similar fate. A cursory examination reveals that the following clauses would be obliterated in the stripping process:

6.7 – 6.15 Adjustments, Deductions, Overpayments
7. Higher Duties
10. Meals and Refreshments
11. Transport
12. Relieving Provisions (inc outduty limits)
15. Training and Staff Development  (also TRC under cl 13)
23.6.7 Workers Comp top up
24. Special Leave for Union Activities
26. Travelling Compensation
27. Notice of Transfer
28. Transfers outside the GSA
29. Transferred Employees Compensation
30. Rental of Premises
31. Protective Clothing and Uniforms
33. Cleaning of Clothes
34. Safety Belts
36. Acknowledgement of Applications and Reports
37. Procedures Regarding Reports and Charges
38. Drug and Alcohol Protocol
39. Salary Sacrifice to Superannuation
39 A Wage/Salary Packaging Arrangements

But it doesn’t stop there; the Howard government is proposing a further reduction in allowable matters under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Whilst the details of this have not yet been tabled in parliament it is quite likely that they will include;

  • Notice of termination or payment in lieu of notice.
  • Long service leave with pay.
  • Bonus pay.
  • Leave for jury service.
  • Access to skills-based career paths with correct training and pay rises.1

In a federal system the matters listed above only exist if they are

a)    covered by some other piece of legislation; or
b)    are contained in an enterprise agreement.

What this will effectively mean is that conditions, which members have already fought hard for and won, will now have to be fought for again in a much harsher and rigid environment.

You will notice over the coming weeks that the union movement will be coming together to mount a campaign against the Federal government’s ideologically driven attack on worker’s rights. Information will be provided on a regular basis to keep you informed about what is happening and what you can do to participate.

Members are encouraged to access further information at the following websites

Labor Net –
Unions NSW –

1. ‘The Howard Doctrine’: Jeremy Vermeesch’ 10 April 2005:

Unilateral Amendment of Time Sheets and Vouchers

This matter has once again raised its ugly head – to make it clear, members’ time sheets and miscellaneous voucher claims are not to be unilaterally changed at any time. If there is a perceived error, or something has been wrongly claimed, the member in question is to be contacted, and only with their express agreement should the claim be changed. If your claim is changed without your agreement, please contact the Union office.

And while we’re on the subject of time sheets, there’s a rumour that firefighters at a GSA station have been given the task of checking the time sheets for a whole zone. Hopefully it is just a rumour, because it’s not your job. If there is some substance to the rumour, the practice should cease immediately.

In Brief

  • Members are reminder that the introduction of the new MSA gas detectors has not been agreed to by the Union.
  • The Union has received numerous calls, particularly from members in Region South, who have been pressured to complete PIPS. There are no quotas on the completion of PIPs and Station Officers should direct any manager trying to enforce a quota to the State Secretary.
  • The Union is aware that some members, especially in the country, have been forced to take sick leave without pay due to the shortage of doctors in their area. In these circumstances the requirement for a medical certificate can be waived and the Union will make representation to the Department on behalf of individual members, particularly for those in the country who are unable to make an appointment with their GP.
  • In regard to the ordering of duty wear trousers, negotiations have continued for the implementation of a uniform policy. It is anticipated that an In Order will be forthcoming once these negotiations are complete, providing for an initial issue and an annual entitlement for duty wear trousers and other PPE items.
  • Further to our previous notice regarding the (non) cleaning of dress uniform shirts, the Department continues to ignore award provisions. The latest example being a member who was looking forward to proudly marching with his comrades on ANZAC Day with the brigade contingent. He had his request for his dress shirt to be cleaned as per the award knocked back. Should the Department continue to fail to meet its obligations under the award the Union will commence prosecution proceedings.

Craig Harris
State Secretary



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