Most members are now aware that the relationship between Union and the Department has recently darkened. Not since the Department attempted to cut the relieving corps, destroy the promotional system, increase out-duties and remove the rank of Senior Firefighter have relations been so strained.
The most recent tirade from the Department (click here for management’s message) has achieved nothing other than entrenching conflict between the Union and management.
Ignoring the Department’s latest criticisms (each of which will be addressed and answered separately in due course), one particular accusation does however need to be addressed immediately. Neither I nor any other Union member criticised the actions of firefighters at a recent fire in Alexandria. It simply did not happen. The Department knows – and every member should know – that if management cuts staffing or equipment then the Union will hold the Department publicly accountable. That the community at Hornsby needed an aerial appliance did not mean that the communities of Redfern and Alexandria no longer required theirs.
It is now clear that the Department has adopted a different approach in refuting the concerns raised by the Union (whatever they might be) in the media. At every opportunity the media is being told that our concerns are somehow less legitimate because the Union is running a wage campaign. This mantra is more than an attempt to spin attention away from the issues raised by the Union, it is designed to undermine public support for our wage claim. The Union has a right to publicly raise matters related to firefighters, the work we do, the dangers we face and the incompetence we have to deal with.
Surprising as it might be to some, unions and bosses do not always agree. The industrial struggle between the FBEU and management is not new, and nor is it about individual players on our side or theirs. In the words of Frank Bryce, FBEU Secretary 1968-1988:
“The union continues to seek better conditions of employment and job satisfaction for its members, and the Fire Brigade endeavours to fulfil its responsibilities in providing fire protection for the community at the cheapest possible price – and so, the class struggle between worker and employer continues…”
We’ll all get a clearer view on just how much management supports our wage claim when the Department lodges its counter award claims in our wage tomorrow.