SITREP 27/2013

July 6, 2013

empty handInside this issue:

  • Federal Labor giveth 0.25% …
  • … and the NSW Liberals taketh it away –
  • public sector strike looms
  • Voluntary (sort of) redundancies
  • Officer promotions update #2
  • Another unfair dismissal overturned
  • Freedom of Information is a wonderful thing 2#

Federal Labor giveth 0.25% …

On Monday, 1 July every retained member, and the 80% of permanent members who are not in the “old” SSS or SASS funds, each received a 0.25% increase in their super contributions from FRNSW courtesy of the federal Labor Government, which legislated to increase mandatory employer super contributions between now and 1 July 2019, up from 9% to 12%. That’s good, isn’t it?

… and the NSW Liberals taketh it away – public sector strike looms

It’s good as long as it doesn’t come out of your take home pay.

Last week’s SITREP 26/13 reported on the decision of the Industrial Relations Commission that the 1 July increase in mandatory employer super contributions, up from 9% to 9.25%, could not be funded by cuts to public sector workers’ wages. That was Tuesday. By Friday afternoon the O’Farrell Government had issued a new regulation to overturn the decision and provide that any increase above 9% in employer super contributions will now be funded by cuts to the 2.5% pa wage cap. Basically, the Premier didn’t like what the three Judges had to say, so he changed the law to suit himself.

Because that regulation is now in force, the IRC can award no more than 2.25% pa in wage increases. So much for O’Farrell’s commitment to ensure that take home wages (an increase in super does nothing to help pay this week’s bills) would keep pace with inflation.

So what does this mean for us? It’s still too early to say, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the Government’s problems did not end with their promulgation of that regulation. In meetings of public sector unions this week the FBEU called for a serious, sector-wide industrial response to this latest O’Farrell outrage. More to follow.

Voluntary (sort of) redundancies

One of the less discussed changes to the industrial landscape under this government is their mean spirited approach to redundancies. The O’Farrell policy drops the redeployment period for redundant workers from 12 months to three, removes all union consultation, and gives workers two weeks to decide if they would like to accept a “voluntary” redundancy. If they refuse that redundancy, but end up not being redeployed and consequently lose their job, their exit payment is much smaller than if they had left in the first instance. This week the Department has made offers of ‘voluntary’ redundancy to 11 retained members. The Union has contacted each of the retained members in question individually, and in spite of the above we are hopeful of a satisfactory outcome.

Officer promotions update #2

This week’s meeting between the Commissioner and myself regarding the Inspector’s Promotional Program was reasonably fruitful, in as much as today’s scheduled hearing at the IRC has been held over to allow further discussions. The most pressing immediate issue remains the disadvantage for candidates who have studied for the exam only to find the rules of the game changed at the last moment. The more fundamental issue is yet to be addressed – if there is to be a wholesale shift in the promotional system then what is in it for firefighters? Our position has not changed – we want a transparent system, a fair system, and a system that rewards those who acquire new skills even if they fail to win a promotion.

But what’s happening with the Station Officer’s Promotional Program? While there is clearly going to be some tensions over the Department’s intention to change the pre-entry test, on one matter at least there is no debate. The Award is very clear that the Department are required this month to advise how many SOs are required for the 2014 SOPP. The Union believes that at least one full class of twenty should be called for, but it will be interesting to see exactly what management comes back with. A class of five, or two, or none perhaps?

Another unfair dismissal overturned

A Full Bench comprising three Judges of the Industrial Relations Commission today upheld a Union appeal on behalf of our member, Senior Firefighter Brendan O’Donnell, against his unfair dismissal by Commissioner Mullins in November 2011. The full decision is available by clicking here.

There is a sense of déjà vu about this for those of us who have been around for a while (see “Harsh, Unreasonable and Unjust”, “RUOK Glenn? Yes!” and other recently-reported cases). It also makes a mockery of the “Just trust us!” mantra of management. “Just trust us to manage!” they say, in relation to discipline, transfers, promotions, training, and day-to-day management. The question needs to be asked: Why should we trust them to get it right, when the courts keep finding they are getting it wrong?

Freedom of Information is a wonderful thing 2#

In Commissioner’s Corner this week Mr. Mullins sought to reassure members that the proposals contained in the document released in SITREP 26/13 that the Union obtained through the Government Information (Public Access) Act were “a series of thoughts…..most of which have not been, and will not be, implemented”. Furthermore, in releasing this document the Union was “causing undue concern and [that is] precisely the reason why FRNSW sought to restrict what documents were released.”

For those who have not yet seen the document (available by clicking here) it has nine broad recommendations. Some have already been enacted, like TOLing of permanent stations, and the Department has indicated it intends to move on others in the near future like medical response in urban areas, and selective calling for retained brigades.

So fully one third of the proposals are either currently happening or in the planning stages. If the remainder are “not [to] be implemented”, then I call upon the Commissioner to confirm this. I am sure it would be a comfort to many members, including me, to know that some of the other radical proposals – such as the closure of select city 10/14 stations, and the reduction of crew sizes below safe and effective minimum levels at either “low risk” or “special purpose” brigades – were nothing more than “a series of thoughts” and are now off the table. If the Commissioner does confirm this to be the case I will happily publish his statement in SITREP 28/2013.

Jim Casey
State Secretary



Recent news: