SITREP 26/2012

June 29, 2012

Inside this issue:

  • Commissioner Mullins’ Open Letter(s)
  • Request for information regarding strike action – Part 1
  • Request for information regarding strike action – Part 2
  • Permanent service numbers sorted – not

Commissioner Mullins’ Open Letter(s)

In the wake of last week’s victory by members in securing an exemption for firefighters and paramedics from the O’Farrell Government’s gutting of workers comp (see today’s separate notice), Commissioner Mullins has written to members expressing his “deep sense of disappointment”. His open letter is quite a document, and I do not propose to respond to all the points raised in a tit for tat manner.

There are three aspects however that do demand a reply.

  • Commissioner Mullins wrote of the “mob mentality that seems to assert itself during industrial action”. I do not expect the Commissioner to agree with strike action. I do, however, expect him to respect the choice that individuals make to do so. By implying that the 1000+ members who participated in last week’s strike did so simply to “go with the flow” is to imply that none of you are capable of making a decision. What is particularly galling here is that FRNSW – an organisation with absolutely no internal democratic controls – is lecturing the FBEU on this question. We are a member driven organisation. FRNSW is not.
  • How did we win? The Commissioner alleges that “effective lobbying, provision of information, and other forms of action may have achieved the same result”. How this was to be done given the Government gave only two days between the introduction of the legislation and the voting upon it is not explained. But more importantly, the politician who moved the amendment that exempted firefighters, the Greens’ David Shoebridge, has a very different position. Having spoken to him repeatedly over the last week I can assure members that without our strike action we would not have won.
  • And finally, on bullying and harassment. The FBEU has a zero tolerance position on bullying and harassment, and I have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Commissioner on this question over the last few years. Debate will occur about our victory – as it should. This is what democracy looks like. Anything that steps beyond debate has no place in our Union. That said, it is important to note that this is a two way process and it is also unacceptable (not to mention illegal) for management to stand over or intimidate those who took strike action.

Request for information regarding strike action – Part 1

 The Director Metropolitan Operations yesterday issued a memorandum headed “Possible Unauthorised use of FRNSW Vehicles and Equipment”. The Union’s officials are not concerned by this development and members are advised to cooperate with this instruction, and to provide the information requested.

 Request for information regarding strike action – Part 2

 The Department last week also issued a direction to permanent members to the effect that NMCs could not be used on 21 June (ie, the day of the strike). Members are advised that this instruction was contrary to the Award and therefore not worth the paper it was written on.

The right to take unsupported supported sick leave absences (ie NMCs) is set out at subclause 23.8 of the Permanent Award. Subclauses 23.8.2, 23.8.3 and 23.8.4 list the three occasions on which permanent members are not permitted to take unsupported sick leave, namely:

* on consecutive days;
* on public holidays; and
* for any matter that may be covered by workers’ comp.

There is no mention prohibiting the use of NMCs for days when industrial action occurs. Members who accessed their right to an NMC on the day of the strike and who were subsequently directed to provide a medical certificate are therefore advised to politely inform your Duty Commander that you have satisfied the requirements of subclause 23.8, that you do not need to supply any further information and that you will not be doing so.

Permanent service numbers sorted – not

In SITREP 19/2011 we reported that the question of Brigade numbers was “sorted” with Commissioner Mullins having given assurances that 4-digit Brigade Numbers would be reintroduced for all permanent firefighters. We took Mr Mullins at his word, and reported as much. He said, in Commissioner’s Corner on 11 May 2011:

the … permanent firefighters who have joined us since the change will be allocated the sequential numbers that they would otherwise have received, and all new permanent firefighters will be allocated both an employee number for SAP purposes, and a Brigade Number. There will be no need to remember both, as SAP will automatically map employee details from one number to the other.”

Clear enough. Brigade numbers will be issued to all permanents and SAP will understand them. Problem solved then? Apparently not. Acting Commissioner Benson this week wrote to the Union:

“It has never been the intention for the Brigade Number to be used for any purpose other than to allow for permanent fire-fighters to understand their place in the history of [FRNSW]. Payroll Employee Numbers will continue to be used in the Occurrence Book and as the basis for user access to our computer systems.”

So there you go. If you were issued with a six-digit number then you can now use your new four-digit Brigade Number to do, well, nothing. We’ll leave it to members to figure out how this isn’t a complete backflip from the Commissioner’s undertakings of May 2011. Members can view the correspondence between the FBEU and FRNSW so members can form their own view.

 Jim Casey
State Secretary



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