October 28, 2011
Inside this issue:
- LSV dispute victory – but what’s next?
- Plans to close Wollongong and Katoomba Comms
- Union medal approved, issue imminent
- Promotion to S/O Level 2
- Retained Training: Phase 1 not to be phased out
- Sacking contagion crosses the border
- Exercise and mental health
- Mental Health event cancelled
LSV dispute victory – but what’s next?
Last week’s industrial action over the staffing of the LSVs was resolved by Department agreeing to honour its agreement with the Union. If it had done this in the first place, as it should have done, there would have been no dispute.
It was a good result, particularly given that management chose to escalate the dispute by closing fire stations statewide, rather than recalling members to duty, and then directing crews to respond with less than safe and effective minimum crewing of SO&3.
So what next? Last weekend the Department demonstrated that it is prepared to compromise both community and firefighter safety in order to satisfy the NSW Treasury.
But last weekend we demonstrated the resolve and solidarity that is the heart of the FBEU by refusing to carry out unsafe orders, and making it clear that our safety can not be used as a bargaining chip by the employer.
As I noted on the Member’s Forum Saturday evening – while this was a great result, it was also no more than the first round in what is shaping up to be a bitter fight. The substantive issue of the LSV staffing was won. But expect further provocations in the weeks and months to come.
Plans to close Wollongong and Katoomba Comms
And speaking of further provocations, after more than 12 months of rumour the Department has finally confirmed its plans to close both Wollongong and Katoomba Communications Centres in 2012. Management’s proposal contains a great many reasons for concern, setting the scene for yet another ugly dispute. More to follow.
Union medal approved, issue imminent
Members will recall that the Centenary AGM of the Union endorsed the creation of a Medal to be awarded to FBEU members of good standing with 25 years’ Union membership. The first medal has now been struck, and last week’s Commissioner’s Orders 2011/22 confirmed that recipients may now wear this award on FRNSW uniform.
The Union policy governing the awarding of the medal can be found here http://fbeu.net/about-2/medal/. As there are several hundred serving members entitled to the Award, it will take us some time to formalise the awards and arrange for all the presentations. Stay tuned for further details.
Promotion to S/O Level 2
In 2009 the Union implemented bans following the Department’s refusal to promote members who had completed SOPP Class 25 to the rank of Station Officer (SITREP 14/2009). While the Union was able to hold off the Department for Classes 25, 26 and to a lesser extent, Class 27, the IRC eventually closed the gate on the members of Class 28 and beyond by allowing the Department to in future apply subclauses 13.9 and 13.10 to the letter.
Members are advised that S/O promotions are to occur as follows:
Class 24 and prior – all members promoted to S/O Level 2 two years after completion of SOPP
Class 25 – all members promoted to S/O Level 2 on 2 October 2011
Class 26 – all members promoted to S/O Level 2 on 18 December 2011
Class 27 – all members promoted to S/O Level 2 on 28 May 2012
Class 28 and onwards – each member promoted to S/O Level 1 upon occurrence of a vacancy, but in any event prior to completion of the following SOPP class, with each member to be promoted to S/O Level 2 two years after promotion to S/O Level 1.
Disturbingly, the Department last week advised a member of Class 25 that his promotion would not take effect until 18 December 2012. The Union has since written to the Department, noting that this is not correct and demanding that the members of Classes 25, 26 and 27 all be promoted on and from the above dates.
Members who are not promoted in accordance with the above timetable are advised to contact the Union immediately.
Retained training: Phase 1 not to be phased out
The Department has form in trying to avoid costs associated with face-to-face training for Retained Firefighters. Previously management shifted Phase 1 training from weekends to weekdays in order to save instructor overtime. Good for the Department’s bottom line, but no good at all for retained members, who had to use leave entitlements from their primary employment in order to attend. Now the Department is trying to load up our newest members with pre-course assignments, to be completed prior to attending a training facility for Phase 1 training.
The Union has two main concerns here, the first being the amount of unpaid time it would take a new member to research and complete the assignments, and the second being the impact on Captains and Deputy Captains in assisting those members. Then there are the questions themselves, such as this doozy ‘Can the Commissioner terminate an employee’s appointment because he/she has not passed an examination?’ At least they should know what to expect from the ‘Fire Brigade Family’.
Further, there has been no mention of additional authorised duties to cater for this additional station based training. These assignments were first provided to the Union in late August, and we have still not been provided with an explanation as to how the existing face-to-face training is to be amended. Consequently the Union had the matter heard before the Industrial Relations Commission today, with IRC recommending that the Department’s new training regime should cease immediately and that the proposal should be referred back to the joint FRNSW/FBEU Training Review Committee (TRC) operating under both Awards – as should have been the case all along.
Another unnecessary IRC hearing resolved in the Union’s favour.
Sacking contagion crosses border
It appears that QFRS management over the border this week took a leaf out of the book of our blow-in FRNSW bosses by sacking a light duties firefighter. In disturbing parallels to the current situation in NSW, the firefighter in question was terminated without warning after having been engaged for several years in meaningful alternative duties.
The Queensland Union yesterday implemented bans on paper work and non-emergency response, which were then lifted on the direction of the QIRC. Members were meeting today to consider a vote of no confidence in their Commissioner. I have been in touch with the Queensland President and offered whatever support we can muster. Queensland members view this as a test case, and rightly so. As with our own alternative duties dispute, if they can do it to one of us, they can do it to all of us.
Exercise and mental health
Organisations like the Black Dog Institute have long advocated the benefits of regular exercise for promoting good mental health. In its fact sheet “Exercise and Depression” Black Dog explains that ‘Research suggests that regular exercise may increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in mood, sleep, libido, appetite and other functions, and has been linked to depression. Exercise may also increase endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain with ‘moodlifting’ properties’ (www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/ExerciseandDepression.pdf). The Mental Health Association also recommends exercise, advising that ‘exercise or physical activity is particularly important for our wellbeing and some research has shown it to be useful in managing depression’ (www.mentalheatlh.asn.au).
So how much should you do? The Mental Health Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days. For more information about physical fitness and its benefits for mental health, check out the Union website under the Mental Health Month banner.
Health Month event cancelled
Regrettably, Monday’s Mental Health Month morning tea has been cancelled. The Union has various resources available, including fact sheets, posters and booklets on a number of mental health related topics that can be obtained by emailing email@example.com. Promoting good mental health remains an important issue for the Union and there will be further events in due course.
Given current management treatment of firefighters on alternative duties, I advise any member who is experiencing poor mental health to seek medical assistance, but informing the Department is a different matter. As things stand it could cost you your job.
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