SITREP No. 32 of 2011

August 19, 2011

Inside this issue:

  • ICAC – who watches the watchmen?
  • Blue Card: Is it new work?

  • Drugs and Alcohol Update

ICAC – who watches the watchmen?

The ICAC has today handed down its report into corruption and inappropriate behaviour in FRNSW.

I was briefed this morning by the Commissioner on the report itself, and upon FRNSW’s response. Both documents are now available on the Intranet. I encourage all members to read them.

More will follow, but there are two things to be said immediately about the ICAC report:

1. The instances of corrupt and inappropriate behaviour found by the ICAC were limited to small groups of members who worked in specific areas within FRNSW. There were few criticisms of FRNSW’s frontline operations. In short, while corrupt and inappropriate behaviour has occurred, it was behaviour connected with a tiny minority of Departmental staff.

2. The report identifies the relationship between the FBEU and FRNSW as being an adverserial one, and argues that this contributes to corrupt and inappropriate behaviour. In particular, the report suggests that “inappropriate behaviour may become protected by the aura of the Union”.

I reject this proposition, and find it quite remarkable that one of the premier investigative agencies in the country could make such a statement. The FBEU is an organisation that fights determinedly for the rights of its members, but at no stage has it ever excused or condoned corrupt behaviour.

Further in the report, the ICAC details the grounds for this offensive assertion – the recent KPMG Report and the FBEU’s own website. The ICAC never approached the Union and sought our view, it simply drew these conclusions based upon on a second-hand survey and a bit of time on Google.

The suggestion that the strength of the FBEU is in some way responsible for corruption within FRNSW indicates a political bias that has no place in an authority like ICAC. It appears that the ICAC would prefer firefighters to simply do as they are told by a benevolent employer, as apparently this is the only way in which corrupt or inappropriate behaviour can be addressed.

It is regrettable that the ICAC report into FRNSW is so factually incorrect, and seemingly ideologically driven, on this point. It would be a pity if the useful insights into corruption inside FRNSW were clouded by these falsehoods. In any case, the Union remains committed (as it has always been) to advancing the cause of firefighters in an open, collective, and unapologetically militant fashion.

In closing, the Department’s response to the report also makes for contentious reading. The Union will respond in turn following next week’s meeting of the State Committee.

Blue Card: Is it new work?

The Department has commenced rolling out Blue Card training to some members in North West Sydney. It’s a new incident management system that requires Incident Commanders, or other firefighters eligible to perform that role, to undertake 50 hours online training and a four day assessment/training course. Given the O’Farrell Government’s policy to refuse to extra pay for new/extra work, and our recent SGM decision to take on no new work, where should we stand on Blue Card training? Is this new work, or is this merely a different way of doing what we’ve always done? With the State Committee set to consider this question, members with a view on Blue Card training are encouraged to contact your State Committee official or the Union office to have your say.

Drugs and Alcohol Update

Wednesday’s Commissioner’s Corner (#520) accused Sitrep 29/2011 of misrepresenting “the detail and intent” of the Department’s proposed Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy. We did nothing of the sort and stand by that notice and each of our preceding notices on this subject. The Commissioner went on, unhelpfully, to explain how he had brought me to heel, writing that “I have since then met with the FBEU Secretary who has agreed to provide constructive comment and suggestions.”

What actually occurred is that I made it clear to Commissioner Mullins that the Union does not agree with the proposed Policy in its current form and that the current Joint Drug and Alcohol Protocol and Award clauses will remain in force until we agree, or the IRC orders otherwise. I also left the Commissioner in no doubt that the Union intends being considerably more active about random urine testing and the docking of members’ pays than providing “comment and suggestions”.

The Department’s own account of Deputy Commissioner Benson’s station forum on 3 August records the members in attendance asking:

What actions are taken if a person is found to have a positive reading?

Management’s answer was recorded, word for word, as this:

Positive test results will be referred to Workplace Standards for assessment on a case-by-case basis.  Each individual shall be treated fairly and equitably, with emphasis on education and training, support services, specialist drug and alcohol counselling and peer support involvement, not termination.

Sounds pretty reasonable doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the Department’s proposed Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy at Section 4.3, Positive Test Results clearly states that “any FRNSW employee with a positive test result will be: immediately relieved of duty and directed to leave the workplace” and “required to forfeit pay for all or part of any shift they were scheduled to work subsequent to undertaking the on-site test”. Section 4.3’s concludes unambiguously with this:

“Where an employee has recorded a positive test result ….. they will [our emphasis] be subject to disciplinary proceedings, which may result in dismissal”.

So which is it? Case-by-case training, support and counselling, but “not termination”. Or guaranteed “disciplinary proceedings, which may result in dismissal”?

Until the Department makes up its mind it is very difficult for the Union to “provide constructive comment”. Certainly, if it is the latter it appears to be more about disciplining members rather than assisting them. In either case, the Union will continue to ensure that our dignity and industrial rights are defended.



Jim Casey

State Secretary



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