All members should by now be aware that after over a year of negotiations for improvements to our Union’s Death and Disability Scheme, we have reached a crisis point.
Our Death and Disability Scheme was the very first of its kind in the country and even now four years later is one of only two D&D schemes nationwide. The terms under which the scheme was established explicitly require that permanent members contribute 1.5% of salary, retained members $300 (4% of average retained earnings) and that the, Department is obliged to contribute all other money required to pay out members entitlements.
While our five year long campaign for Death and Disability benefits did not lead to a reopening of the old defined benefit super scheme most older members enjoy, it did guarantee that the NSW Government would pick up the risk for firefighter deaths and injuries. This was the first new defined benefit scheme opened by the NSW Government in over twenty years – we won an unprecedented, ground breaking deal.
Now just four years later the NSW Government is trying to use the labour courts to pick apart our D&D scheme and unravel the protections for the very people it relies upon in the front line of almost every disaster and catastrophe in the State. It is simply unfair and unreasonable that a Government that has spent the last 12 years flush with income from property taxes should now come looking to carve its fiscal discipline out of the backs of sick and crippled firefighters.
The Union’s State Committee of Management met all day Thursday in a concerted effort to determine out how best to protect and defend our D&D scheme from the Government and convened again Friday morning for further consideration. The State Committee spent much of Friday morning in the labour courts listening to the opinion of the judge on what had been achieved and followed on directly with a prolonged technical discussion with the Union’s barrister. The court case has been held open in some slim hope of agreement, but we now need a major breakthrough to get the case settled.
With the spectre of the Howard Government’s ‘WorkChoices’ legislation now looming in the background for all workers we need to recognise that all of our wages and conditions will be seen as fair game if we don’t fight to protect them. There are no more compelling or legitimate grounds for every member of the FBEU to stand together and fight to defend what is ours than this issue.
Every firefighter runs the same risk – every firefighter deserves the same benefit.