The Union has now finally put together and submitted all of its evidence for the Unions ‘Special Wage Case’. This has required an enormous effort from all concerned and has seen over 64 full ring binders and over 20 000 pages of evidence. The Union has pulled together 26 different affidavits from people brave enough to stand up in front of the court and justify what we are paid to do and what we are expected to do. On top of this the Union has had to submit two draft Awards that include a raft of improvements for both the permanent and retained members along with justifications and rationale for the changes.
During the course of the last three months the Department has managed to punch enormous holes in the Unions claim for wage parity with firefighters in the Australian Capital Territory. The intense media interest in firefighters responding to medical emergencies, the Governments hard line on public sector wages and a flurry of correspondence back and forth between the parties have all locked the Department into an adversarial approach to our wages. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Department of Health in wage claims for ambulance officers and nurses.
The Union’s State Committee of Management has now been forced to again amend the log of claims served on the Government. The Department’s decision to oppose our wage claim means the FBEU must now argue in detail why we shouldn’t have our wages cut and our conditions removed by the courts. On this basis the State Committee has endorsed a claim of 8% per year with every member receiving the same percentage increase. The claim for 8% per year (inclusive of the 2.5% granted in February) for three years is based on 4% each year for inflation and 4% each year in compensation for extra work and new responsibilities.
While the Department’s entire approach to our wage claim is uncalled for it’s attempt to strip our Award of conditions we have held for decades is quite unprecedented and is completely at odds with the approach taken by other Government Departments. Most staggering of all however is the Department’s refusal to be bound by its own commitment that whatever result comes out of this wage claim the permanent members Award will expire on February 24th 2011. The Department will now have six weeks to examine the Union’s claim in minute detail and build its arguments against our claims helping the Department to drive down our wages and increase its managerial prerogative.