October 14, 2014
- 2014 AGM Reminder
- Permanent Award negotiations – update #9
- Death and Disability Award – updates #3
- Medical Certificates and ESS
2014 AGM reminder
As advised in SITREP 32, the Union’s AGM will be held later this month and Country and Retained Sub-Branch members (only) may meet locally at any time between 1830 hours on Wednesday 29 October and 1900 hours on Sunday 2 November provided that:
a) a quorum of least seven financial Union members will be present throughout the course of the meeting;
b) written notice of intention to hold a meeting together with the proposed time, date and location is received by the Union office by no later than 1700 hours this Thursday 16 October.
A full list of the times, dates and locations all Union meetings being held across the state (including metro areas) will be faxed to all members’ workplaces and posted on the Union’s website on Friday 17 October.
Permanent Award negotiations – update #9
We’ve held dozens of information sessions for members at stations across Sydney and beyond (and I’ll be attending another at Orange tomorrow night), however it remains difficult to keep up with demand. It’s also difficult to find the balance between those members who want every minute detail explained and those who want nothing longer than a one page summary. Suffice it to say that explaining it all properly without boring 99% of the membership to death remains a significant challenge.
We found that our draft material was taking four pages to explain one page of Award changes, so we settled instead on sending out the Award itself, letting members work through it and answering questions as they came through station visits, email and telephone queries to the office and our online members’ forum. For members wanting more information there are, as of today, over 530 separate posts on the proposed Award alone. There are also many more questions answered there than we could ever hope to do via SITREP so if you want more information, your Union’s online forum is a good place to start.
Death and Disability Award – update #3
SITREP 32 reported on our filing of a revised award application that reduced employee contributions, adjusted benefit design and retained the health and fitness provisions that appeared in our first application that was released back in April with SITREP 12. Also reported was our aim to have a new D&D Award endorsed by a General Meeting and in place before the end of November.
Members should know that the Department was happy to roll the current award over for another three years by simply adjusting the fixed amounts and nothing else. However, the Union’s officials approached this round with a firm belief that the current D&D Award is:
- too complex, and should therefore be simplified;
- too expensive for employees, and should therefore have the contributions required of both permanent and retained employees reduced;
- unfair by requiring a lump sum offset in return for an on-duty pension, which should therefore be removed;
- outdated by stopping off-duty death and TPI cover at 65, which should therefore be extended to 67;
- weighted against permanent employees, whose contribution rates are higher but whose claim rates and benefit costs are both lower than those of retained employees, whose benefits should be recalibrated in order to provide an equitable and sustainable balance;
- unnecessarily cumbersome by requiring constant re-negotiation of hard-wired benefits which should instead be automatically adjusted in line with wage movements; and
- drowning under a growing long-term liability that is largely (but not solely) due to the employer’s failure to contribute at the required rate over the preceding ten years which, if allowed to continue, will guarantee its demise.
The proposed award does all of these things. An SGM will now be run concurrently with the AGM, with the sole item for consideration being to vote on the following motion:
“That the draft 2014 Death and Disability Award posted to the Union’s website as an attachment to SITREP 33 on 14 October be received, noted and endorsed as the Union’s application and that the State Secretary be authorised to consent to the making of a new award on those terms.”
Medical Certificates and ESS
The Department has been briefing members on the operation of its new ESS-Leave system, which Zone management will be using to record sick and carers leave after members submit certificates electronically. At least some members have been told that the Union has already agreed to this. We haven’t. Members have also been told to start forwarding certificates to the Zone office immediately. This isn’t correct either.
The Union has no objection to simpler and/or more efficient reporting systems. What we do object to is the general circulation of members’ personal medical information throughout FRNSW. There is no agreement as yet with the Union for the proposed 31 October commencement of these new reporting systems and until there is, medical certificates should continue to be sent to Health and Safety Branch (only) and not be accessed by zone or area management.
The Union is pressing for the removal of the requirement to provide a diagnosis on medical certificates, with certificates in future merely confirming a member’s inability to attend work due to illness or injury on the dates claimed. Even the Department has conceded that its traditional reliance on diagnoses as a form of fitness for duty screening will be superseded by the FRNSW health and fitness program now under development.
Members are instructed to maintain the status quo, ie, submission of medical certificates and statutory declarations by secure fax or envelope to Health and Safety, until advised otherwise by way of further Union notice. Negotiations continue and an update will be provided prior to 31 October.