SITREP No. 13/2011

April 1, 2011

Inside this issue:

  • New Government, New Minister…
  • Barry turns west
  • Be lawful, not reasonable
  • 2nd hand PPE banned
  • Union wins TA for USAR instructors
  • A ‘super’ lump sum? Update

New Government, New Minister…

As the dust settles on the 2011 NSW Elections we face a Coalition government with a massive majority in the Legislative Assembly, and a working majority (with the support of Fred Nile and the Shooters & Fishers Party) in the Legislative Council. The NSW Parliament is totally in Barry O’Farrell’s hands for the next four years. It will be interesting to see what he has planned for us.

We will also have a new Minister – Melinda Pavey. Ms Pavey is a long-term member of the National Party, who hails from Coffs Harbour. She is a journalist by trade, and has worked both in radio and as a media officer for various National Party luminaries. Significantly, she will also be the first woman to hold the Emergency Services portfolio in Government.

Ms Pavey proved to be approachable as Shadow minister and on attending our Centenary celebrations last year saw exactly how unified we are as a Union. I will be meeting with her once she has been sworn in as Minister to discuss a number of issues affecting our industry. Like any minister, the FBEU will work with Ms Pavey where we can to advance firefighters’ interests and against her where we can’t. How well we can work together is entirely up to Government.

Barry turns west

Has the NSW Farmers’ Association got its way? ( Word is the new O’Farrell Government is set to announce the relocation of RFS head office from Lidcombe to Dubbo.

While the Sydney-centric bureaucrats who head the Service can be expected to complain loudly, they can hardly be shocked. Not only is the Coalition promising to “rebuild the NSW economy … with 40,000 jobs for regional areas”, but the RFS remains one of only two Government agencies in the entire NSW public sector with “rural” in its name (the other being the Rural Assistance Authority, based at Orange).

Be lawful, not reasonable

The Union has received some recent enquiries which suggest a fundamental lack of understanding of the Award, and the law of employment more broadly, by the Department. Members have been “asked” (with varying degrees of force) to shun their entitlements and participate in a “bit of give and take” with the Department. This has included instances of members being asked to attend unpaid training sessions, or waive their entitlement to kms, etc.

Our Award sets out the minimum pay and conditions for all members, and the Department is bound to stick by it. You cannot be paid less or receive conditions that are less than those set out in the Award, and the Department can’t contract out of the Award by agreeing to or allowing any member to accept lesser conditions or to ignore the Award. Any of these actions are in fact illegal.

So the next time a manager asks you to waive pay or conditions to which you are legitimately eligible under the guise of “give and take”, or “being a good bloke”, tell them all that you are asking for is your legal entitlement – no more, no less.

2nd hand PPE banned

As members would be aware, the Union and Department earlier this month reached agreement on terms for new permanent and retained awards. Those terms of settlement included a very specific agreement to recycle limited items of PPE (and I quote) “The parties agree to the recycling of properly fitting, cleaned and treated outer-wear PPE (ie, structure coats and overtrousers only)…”

Unfortunately, and despite the clarity of the agreed terms, management in at least one regional zone last week issued a direction to firefighting staff that not only were structure coats and overtrousers now to be recycled, but also “duty wear pants and shirts, helmets, boots and new dress shirts and pants, etc”.This instruction follows hot on the heels of the member from another regional zone who was refused a new helmet and offered an hand me down after his own helmet was punctured at a job “with a hole about the size of a 10 cent piece on the top”. It also appears that the well documented inability of the Department to guarantee LSV staffing is resulting in lockers – and therefore PPE – not arriving prior to the relievers in question commencing duty.

In view of these developments and until further notice, members instructed to not accept or wear any item of clothing and/or PPE that has not been issued as a new item to yourself.

Union wins TA for USAR instructors

The Union took the Department to the IRC today after it refused to pay travel entitlements to casual USAR instructors despite being attached to stations across the state (including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Newcastle).  The Department cynically argued that the instructors are already being paid extra as a result of the higher duties, and what they do as far as accommodation, meals etc is a matter for them. To put this in context, most members will only be receiving $14 a day extra in higher duties – not even worth a meal allowance, let alone sufficient to cover accommodation and this ignores that the higher duties are paid for work value, not to cover these additional expenses.

The dispute over entitlements was having an immediate impact, with a class currently underway for 8 instructors. However, following the Union’s intervention, the Department will be paying travel entitlements for those 8 members. As for the ongoing entitlement, the parties shall be reporting back to the IRC on 20 April following further discussions. More to follow.

A ‘super’ lump sum? Update

Sitrep 12/11 reported that the Department may still owe members over $200,000 in extra super as a result of last week’s $500 and $100 lump sum payments. When pressed this week for an answer as to whether they agreed it was payable or not, we were told “Finance are following it up”. That to us says it’s either very complex (which we don’t think it is), or the answer is indeed yes. More to follow.

Jim Casey

State Secretary



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