October 19, 2012
- New PPC to be withdrawn from service
- FRNSW budget crisis update
- Hazmat qualifications – get attached
- Mental Health Month: Celebrate, Connect, Grow
- A new Drug and Alcohol Protocol?
New PPC to be withdrawn from service
Following further investigations and discussions between the Union and Department, and Commissioner Mullins and I directly over the past week, FRNSW has this evening ordered the withdrawal from service of all new PPC until further notice. The Union welcomes this decision and will continue to press for the rectification of the problems which have given rise to this instruction.
FRNSW budget crisis update
In SITREP 39/2012 we reported that the Department had undertaken to unveil its cost saving measures to the Union and the IRC on 17 October. Both the Union and the IRC were therefore surprised when on Wednesday the Department reported that no decision had yet been reached and no further indication given of when one might be forthcoming. The Department did however argue that there was no further need to consult with the Union over possible cost saving measures and given that the allocation of firefighting resources was at management’s discretion, the IRC had no business in the matter either.
Of course the Union opposed the Department’s “its our money so we’ll do as we please” approach, and unsurprisingly, Justice Backman agreed, listing for further report on 2 November.
Hazmat qualifications – get attached
Following reports in the Illawarra that members not attached to HAZMAT have been used to cover vacancies in HAZMAT, members, including relievers, are advised that:
- in order to maintain a HAZMAT qualification and receive the qualification allowance you must be attached to a HAZMAT station, in which case you will then each and every week in accordance with Clause 6 of the Award;
- you cannot be used to cover HAZMAT vacancies unless you are HAZMAT qualified; and
- if you are not attached to a HAZMAT station then you are not HAZMAT qualified, are not eligible for the qualification allowance and cannot be used to fill HAZMAT operator vacancies.
The same principles apply to Rescue, Aerial and Communications qualifications.
This is consistent with the advice offered in SITREP 29/2010 wherein members were advised “that with the exception of the relieving allowance (which is payable for each shift actually worked) all of the Clause 6 qualification allowances (including marine, aerial, rescue, hazmat and comms allowances) are payable week in, week out, including when on leave (workers comp, annual leave, long service leave, sick leave, etc). In fact the only time when these allowances are not payable is for any period of Leave Without Pay.”
For example, if the Department requires HAZMAT-qualified relievers for 515 Station then it should attach those relievers to 515 Station, in which case they will then be paid the allowance week in, week out as intended by the Award and SITREP 29/2010. The flip-side of this is that no member who is not attached to 515 Station (or 13 Alexandria, 77 St Marys, 85 Chester Hill, 228 Berkeley Vale or 516 Newcastle HAZMAT) can work at 515 Station for any reason, including overtime.
Mental Health Month: Celebrate, Connect, Grow
Members are reminded that it is Mental Health Month and are encouraged to have a look at some of the many mental health and support resources available. This year’s theme, ‘Celebrate, Connect, Grow’ encourages people to celebrate the positive things in life, connect with others and try new things to broaden their horizons. There are a number of events being held across NSW, details of which can be found at www.mentalhealth.asn.au along with other mental health resources. The Union also has a number of resources on its website which can be found under ‘Union Guides’.
A new Drug and Alcohol Protocol?
An item in last week’s Commish’s Corner dealing with a new Drug and Alcohol policy more than piqued our interest. Commissioner Mullins, in response to a Dorothy Dixer about when the new policy would be implemented answered that “A definite timeframe for the implementation of the D&A policy cannot be given at this stage. However, negotiations with the FBEU have concluded and the policy is now in final draft. Implementation will involve a period of education and training prior to actual testing. The focus will remain on supporting people who have genuine problems with drugs and alcohol, and equally as important, on maintaining safety in the workplace.”
This is news to us, given the last negotiations about the Department’s proposed changes to the current joint Drug and Alcohol Protocol were held in February this year, with nothing more heard since then. There’s certainly no agreed draft, final or otherwise. Nor does the Commissioner’s answer take into account the status-quo provisions of the Organisation Change clauses of both Awards, which the Union will invoke if and when the Department properly notifies the Union of the proposed changes as well as the process and timetable for its implementation. The Commissioner’s vague response (above) does not meet this requirement.
The Department’s blinkered fixation with random urine testing remains as offensive now as it was when first mooted last year. It is even more offensive that, when we are facing the closure of operational fire stations on the basis of meeting budget savings, the employer is still prepared to meet the considerable cost of the additional staff required to develop, introduce and carry out random 24/7 drug and alcohol testing across the state.
The Union acknowledges that the current, joint Drug and Alcohol Protocol is overdue for review, particularly the fitness for duty testing provisions, and we remain open to full and frank discussions with the Department on such matters. More to follow.