It is now crystal clear that the Union notice of 22 January 2008 titled “About medical certificates and medical records” ruffled the Department’s feathers. That’s because the Department took the Union to the Industrial Relations Commission on 18 April 2008 about it. In turn, the Industrial Relations Commission has recommended that the Union publish a new notice that states ‘that medical certificates supplied to the Department must state the nature of the illness or incapacity as well as the period for which the employee is unfit for duty.’ So this notice does just that.
Problem solved? Sadly no. The Union is very disappointed that the Department sees fit to insist and then litigate to ensure that it can be told the nature of the illness or incapacity of our members. The Union believes a person’s illness or incapacity is no-ones business except the member concerned and their doctor. As a firefighter you do not demand to know if your comrade at your station has cancer, is infertile, has had an abortion or has a psychological illness. Likewise firefighters should not be required to tell their comrades on platoon their deepest medical secrets. It follows that the Department should be the last to expect to know about the private affairs of firefighters. The Union thinks this is a classic case of the right to privacy being ignored.
That said, the Industrial Relations Commission has recommended that the Union may provide information to remind its members that certificates may be provided in a sealed envelope marked to the attention of the Health and Safety branch, on the basis that it is only health officers who are trained nurses who will access the certificate and may, in particular circumstances, convey it to Occupational Physicians. Finally, the Union will take the Industrial Relations Commission’s recommendation to add that it is making efforts to vary the current sick leave provisions of both the Permanent and Retained Awards (so that no medical certificate is required) in negotiations that are currently underfoot with the Department.
The Union has also this week advertised for an additional Union Organiser to increase the Union’s capacity to inform, educate and resource members in industrial matters and Union related business. Members wanting more information on this advertisement should contact the Union office.