Most people in Australia seem to know that Christmas day is always celebrated on the 25th of December – except perhaps some members of the very senior levels of management in the NSWFB.
We all make the effort to come in to work if we are rostered on Christmas day even though this means leaving family and friends to spend the day in the company of other people who too would rather be at home. We do this because we all know that if one of us can’t come in to work some other firefighter will have to cover for us and so miss out on time with their family – or the station will close for the day.
In short we look after each other and turn up for work unless we can find someone else prepared to work for us or we are genuinely so crook that we shouldn’t be at work. Largely we live up to our end of the deal and we expect that the Department should live up to its end by ensuring that sufficient operational personnel are rostered on for duty. That didn’t happen this Christmas and somewhere between six and eight brigades in one part of the Sydney GSA were short of Station Officers.
The Union has learned that in one particular part of Sydney up to six brigades were short of suitably qualified Station Officers due to poor planning and inadequate rostering of staff. It was on this basis that management chose to act up a number of Leading Firefighters into Station Officers positions and cover the blunder. Too little was done too late to find the additional Station Officers to cover crewing requirements with an email sent out just four days earlier asking that off duty Station Officers make themselves available for recall.
The Union first found out on Christmas eve when a number of Leading Firefighters rang the Union to notify us that they were being asked to act up even though they hadn’t sat the SOPP let alone passed the assessments. Clearly this issue should have been dealt with months earlier and not left until just days before Christmas. If nothing else the Department should ensure that it has firefighters available for fire engines and fire engines available for firefighters.
This situation didn’t arise because firefighters were living it up on “unjustified absenteeism.” It didn’t arise because the Union was in cahoots with management to make Leading Firefighters work as Station Officers. This situation arose because the Department didn’t manage the situation and put in place strategies to have sufficient numbers of suitably qualified firefighters available for Christmas day. This year the Department should get it right and the Union will be watching to make sure they do.