SITREP 26/2013

June 28, 2013

Axe and Tail LightInside this issue

  • O’Farrell confirms further public sector wage cut
  • IRC awards 7% wage rise for Retained CFR
  • Freedom of Information is a wonderful thing
  • Officer promotions update
  • June SGM results

O’Farrell confirms further public sector wage cut

The FBEU was one of several unions to intervene last week in IRC proceedings over the O’Farrell Government’s attempt to fund the coming increases in super by cutting public sector wages (see SITREP 19/13 and SITREP 21/2013). The IRC on Tuesday ruled against the Government, finding that the 2.5% wage increase cap could not be offset against the increase in employer superannuation contributions due to take effect from next week.

O’Farrell’s response? Re-write the law. A regulation was issued this afternoon to overturn the IRC’s decision and ensure that any increase in our super is taken out of our future wage increases.

This means that the 2.5% wage cap for 2014 just shrank to 2.25%, falling to only 2% per year for each of the next four years after that. Unless of course Tony Abbott wins the coming federal election and, as expected, put Labor’s planned increases in super on hold.

So we are now staring at a loss in our take-home wages courtesy of the O’Farrell Government of another 3% by 2019, or a cut in your retirement benefits courtesy of an Abbott Government cancelling the remaining 2.75% p.a super increases. And still some wonder why we ask “who voted Liberal?”

IRC awards 7% wage rise for Retained CFR

As reported in SITREP 25/2013, the IRC’s Justice Staff last week determined the long-running CFR work value case in the Union’s favour. This is the first successful work value case run, let alone won, by any union under O’Farrell’s draconian industrial relations laws.  While the Union is disappointed that the increase awarded is, at 7%, significantly less than the Union’s claim for a 20% increase, it significantly higher than the pathetic 2.42% (an insulting 80 cents per hour extra) nominated by counsel for the Department as appropriate compensation for CFR duties. The Judge also noted the scope of work performed by CFR retained firefighters, and determined that CFR encompasses skills over and above that required of retained firefighters who do not perform this work. More to follow.

Freedom of Information is a wonderful thing

As reported in SITREP 15/2013, the Union applied for access to all documents held by the Department in respect of the labour cost cap/budget cuts to FRNSW, and plans to meet these cuts, under the Government Information Public Access (GIPA) Act. The Department, predictably, tried to withhold these documents, forcing the Union to take the matter to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT).

As our ADT case has progressed, the Department has been persuaded to hand over more of the information sought, although it continues to deny access to some documents and we await the ADT’s decision on these. One basis upon which the Department relied to deny access is that the documents will upset the Union and its members so much that industrial action will surely follow. Amongst the documents we do have are management’s ideas to save a buck including: closing 10/14 stations in Sydney to provide special roster relievers in country areas; running less than safe and effective minimum crewing at “low risk” retained stations; running SO & 1 at urban “special purpose” stations; and (this one surprised even me) contracting training for things like chainsaw use to the RFS.

There’s more, and I encourage all members to read the Department’s (until-now) secret plans for our job which can be found by clicking here. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Officer promotions update

The question of the IPP pre-entry test content and format returned this week to the IRC, which agreed with the Union that consultation had not concluded and directed the parties to continue negotiations. I will now be meeting with Commissioner Mullins on Monday before reporting back to the IRC next Friday. The Department confirmed that there will be an Inspectors’ pre-entry test this year, the outstanding question being what format it will take?

One thing that everyone agrees on is the need to replace the current examination, but members continue to question the urgency, especially with management racing to have their new system up and running and the Program itself starting on 5 August. One member summed it up nicely:

“Look I have been studying for about 10 months. In the Commissioner’s Corner he mentions that it’s unfair and hard for S/O’s to take 12 to 24 months to study for the exam. Yeah, exactly, so what about the people who have been studying for all this time expecting an exam?

I still think the fairest thing is to run one final exam with everyone aware that this is the last exam. All S/O’s will know that they will be required to prepare portfolios etc for the next promotion.”

The Union has again written to the Department raising this and a number of other concerns with the proposal. A copy our latest letter can be accessed by clicking here.  The letter also sets out an alternative proposal for further discussion that, we believe, would deliver a more effective, fairer selection process that rewarded members for their additional skills and competencies. The Union’s proposal also deals with the content and format of the Station Officers’ pre-entry test, which the Department has every intention of changing but is not yet willing to discuss. More to follow.

June SGM results

The Special General Meeting and associated Sub-Branch meetings concluded with the declaration of the final vote on each question pursuant to Rule 11(4)(d) yesterday, as follows:

1.       Flexible Rostering Arrangements                 CARRIED       (656 for, 147 against)

2.       Annual Leave rosters                                      CARRIED       (728 for, 60 against)

3.       Future voting on industrial matters                LOST               (166 for, 614 against)

4.       Medical First Responder                                 CARRIED       (682 for, 134 against)

This SGM was well attended, and characterised by robust debate. The result was a clear endorsement for the State Committee’s position on MFR. We will talk about the performance of it when the Government agrees there’s money on the table, and not before.

Our position couldn’t be clearer. We won’t be undertaking trials to construct business cases, we won’t be allowing them to introduce it by stealth – firefighters will consider working MFR when the employer recognises that they will pay us for that work.

Jim Casey
State Secretary



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