After more than 12 years of argument over who is the Officer in Charge when permanent members replace retained members, the Union has now managed to force the Departments hand to set out clear instructions when it decides it will use permanent firefighters to make up safe minimum crewing. In order to get a straight answer from the Department, the Union was forced to impose bans and the Department called in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
The IRC asked the Union to lift its bans and recommended that the Department use stations officers in the first instance and senior firefighters as a minimum rank when the Department chooses to replace retained members with permanent members. In order to gauge the will of the membership on the IRC recommendation the Union carried out a survey of members and the response was overwhelmingly in favour of having station officers used in the first instance and senior firefighters used as the minimum permanent rank filling the first vacancy at a retained brigade.
The Unions State Committee of Management has now rescinded its previous policy and resolved the following:
“That the Departments correspondence related to the minimum ranked firefighter it proposes to utilise when ever permanent firefighters are used to replace retained firefighters dated 23 August 2007 be received and noted. Further in light of overwhelming feed back from members in regard to the minimum ranked permanent member qualified to take responsibility for a retained brigade this committee resolves that where permanent members are utilised the first vacancy shall be filled by a member of station officer rank where available and that should no station officer be available a member holding the rank of senior firefighter may be utilised if available, if no station officer or senior firefighter is available and the Department chooses to utilise permanent members the Department shall first recall any available station officer and if no member of station officer rank is available the Department shall then recall members of no less a rank than senior firefighter for the first recall filled.”
This policy relates to the first vacancy at a retained brigade only. If more than one member is required to make up safe minimum crewing of four, then that permanent or indeed retained member may be a firefighter of any rank.