SITREP 32/2013

August 9, 2013

Inside this issue:ballot_box

  • Holmesville 10/14 dispute – update #1>
  • Retained Award negotiations – update #3
  • Voting Liberal on 7 September?
  • A new Drug and Alcohol Protocol? Update #5

SITREP 30/2013 led with two important issues – the looming threat to the 10/14 roster at No. 498 Station Holmesville, and the State Committee’s approval for the negotiation of a new approach to retainer payments based on declared availability. Today’s SITREP 32 leads with updates on both.

Holmesville 10/14 dispute – update #1

The Department this week hit the Newcastle media with its plans to end 10/14 permanent staffing at Holmesville, tart up a few stations and close a few more. At the risk of stating the obvious, holding a media conference to tell the public about your plans before you’ve told the Union is not a recipe for good industrial relations. Or for your credibility.

Commissioner Mullins spent much of this past week trying to convince the public and the workforce that gutting the 10/14 at Holmesville and replacing three other stations with one is actually good for them. What a difference three years (and a change of Government) makes. This was Commissioner Mullins in a public media speil on 9 July 2010:

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins welcomed the arrival of full time firefighters at Holmesville Station and said it represented a major boost for the NSWFB and the community alike.

“Since being officially opened on the 12 May, Holmesville Station has already responded to 35 emergency calls,” Mr Mullins said.

 “The arrival of full-time firefighters at Holmesville will ensure that the NSWFB can maintain the high level of service and rapid response times the community expects.

Not any more, apparently. The Union has today replied to the Commissioner, requesting a meeting to discuss both his proposed changes and his approach to the consultation that he is required by Clause 36 to undertake. Click here for a copy. There will be no change to the roster at Holmesville in the interim. More to follow.

Retained Award negotiations – update #3

The great interest shown by members in the retainer/availability concept outlined in SITREP 30/2013 was reflected in the feedback received to that proposal. The majority of members have sought further information/answers – not surprising given the limited detail available to date – but we’ve also received messages of both support and opposition for the concept.

What is now clear to all is that the proposal involves more than just tinkering at the edges of the Award. It would be a huge change that requires careful consideration and ongoing discussion by the retained membership over several months, not weeks. This alone would have been reason enough for the Union’s officials to withdraw the proposal from the 2013 Award negotiations, but the Department’s failure over the last 6 months to respond to any of the Union’s other claims has put the issue beyond doubt.

So where does this leave us? As SITREP 10/2013 confirmed, members have already received this year’s 2.5% wage increase – the maximum permitted under O’Farrell’s IR laws. We are also now 6 months into what will likely be a 12 month award, so we’ll continue to discuss availability issues and our proposal internally (click here for a copy of the proposal’s general principles) but it’s off the table for the 2013 Award negotiations. The Union will now be asking the IRC to fix a timetable for the arbitration of our application when we next return to the IRC on 19 August. More to follow.

Voting Liberal on 7 September?

In SITREPs 19/2013 and 21/2013 we reported on the O’Farrell’s Government’s threat to reduce the 2.5% per annum wage increases to 2.25% in order to pay for the Labor Government’s 0.25% increase in employer-funded superannuation.

And in SITREPs 26/2013, 27/2013 and 28/2013 we reported how O’Farrell’s wage grab had been successfully challenged in the IRC by the public sector unions, including the FBEU, only for O’Farrell to effectively then reverse that Full Bench decision within 48 hours by issuing a new regulation that forces the IRC to deduct any increase in super from the 2.5% wage cap. The Government lost the court case so it changed the law.

The latest news is that the Labor Opposition, the Greens and the Shooters are now all set to vote against the Government’s regulation when the NSW Parliament resumes on 20 August. They will do so on the basis that the Government misled the Parliament and the people of NSW about its 2.5% wages policy, which it had previously promised would be a cap on wages only, but not “employee related expenses” like super. Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon has rightly hailed this development as “a huge win for nurses, teachers, police, firefighters and all other public sector workers across the state”. Or is it?

Having already lost in the IRC and with defeat on the floor of Parliament looming, the O’Farrell Government is finally going to accept that it has to pay the extra 0.25% and move on, right? Wrong. Not only is the Government appealing the IRC decision to the Supreme Court, but O’Farrell’s Treasurer Mike Baird yesterday promised to axe a further 8,000 public sector job if Parliament rejects their regulation.

This grubby affair is a timely reminder of the danger Coalition governments pose to workers, and to public sector workers in particular. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

A new Drug and Alcohol Protocol? Update #5

Following up on our last update in SITREP 24/2013, the parties recently returned to the IRC for conciliation before Justice Haylen. As a result, most of the issues in contention at the time of SITREP 24/2013 appear close to settlement, with only the questions of (1) whether the testing is conducted by external contractors or on-shift senior officers, and (2) whether the Commissioner should be allowed to grant exemptions for the consumption of alcohol at work or whilst in uniform still to be resolved.

On question 1, the Union has countered with a proposal that contractors conduct the random station tests and that senior officers conduct incident ground tests that, curiously, the Department says it has no intention of conducting. If testing is all about safety then where can be more important than working jobs? On question 2, we’re agreed on “special occasion” exemptions but while the Department says this should be from all aspects of the Policy, we say it should extend only to the consumption of alcohol at FRNSW workplaces or in uniform so that everyone, including those granted a exemption, remain subject to possible testing and the 0.02 BAC limit. The matter returns to the IRC on Monday.

Jim Casey
State Secretary



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