FBEU President’s Report 2010
For FBEU annual Journal
It’s with great pleasure and privilege that I report to members, as President of the FBEU, in our Centenary year. Firstly, I’d like to thank each and every member of the FBEU who stood arm in arm over one hundred years, to ensure that we could stand the test of time. I thank the members that did nothing more than join the Union, often asking for little, but who stood solid when asked to on occasion without fail. I thank the most strident of hard core members, Unionists, and our life members, who sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice, so much, so often, without fanfare, and who lay a path for future members to follow and build on. I thank those who worked behind the scenes in the Union office, or by a lamp post in the dark of night, to push for the goals of the oldest firefighting Trade Union in the world, the strongest and proudest of them all. I thank those that still work behind the scenes, Thank you.
Well, it might be a centenary year, but the wheels keep turning, and no quarter is given. As a collective, we’ve faced some tough challenges lately, but we’re doing well. We have negotiated resolution in Newcastle, with a defense of our positions and principles only achieved through political combat. On top of that, we’ve argued for dignified work conditions for injured members and in doing so negotiated reform on Logistic Support Vehicles and enhanced permanent staffing in five country stations. With Special General Meetings held to ratify this position, we can hold our heads up and say we did it together.
Our retained system is under constant review, with the FBEU taking seats on the working group set up to try and tackle some of the ongoing issues that plague the retained system, and our hard working retained members. Our Country Organisers still travel the State in support of members generally, and remain an asset to the FBEU. Our country operations, and retained system still need a lot of work, and the FBEU must continue to strive to improve these areas.
We are moving closer to having a model to present to members. At this stage it is our intention to present a model, debated and collectively achieved through State Committee, to members at Statewide conferences later this year. It is also our intention that such a structural and important change be put to all members at a General Meeting.
The never ending cycle of our Award negotiations is up for review shortly too. With three Awards to deal with (Permanent, Retained, and Death and Disability) we need to stay on our toes. The NSW State Government election looms, and we must constantly strategise around these changes in landscape. Get involved, and stay updated through your Delegates and SCoM Reps.
And while our Award needs constant renewal, so does our organizing ability and communication. The FBEU is constantly trying to update and evolve with the times. Lately we’ve jumped into modern communication tools with Facebook, Twitter, the online Forum, online Blogs, and our database is being looked at too. But none of these can compete or replace old fashioned organizing and grass roots campaigning. As a political force we made great impact during the last Award round, and we can build on that. Delegates, Organisers and Union Reps need to continually engage with each other, the community, and local MP’s.
Culturally we face a generational challenge. Media scrutiny in regard to harassment and bullying in workplaces across the Country, have seen firefighters dragged into the spotlight in a way we are not used to. While employers hold the key responsibility in issues such as these, as a Union we need to look at how we treat each other at work, and we need to look at how we manage allegations and clear breaches. This is a renewal that is challenging, but achievable. Like OH&S through the 70’ and 80’s, this may be left up to Unions to guide those in power and guide those who employ, on how to manage and deal with problems such as these. I’ve written and spoken about the family of firefighting, but also the family of Unionism. With a bit strength, courage and solidarity, we can all treat each other at work like Brothers, Sisters, or even (should I say it….) Comrades.
One hundred years on, we are as strong as ever. One hundred years on we are in safe hands. Our State Committee is united and functioning as strong as ever. Our property, assets, and funds are secure thanks to the guidance and principle of each of our State Secretary’s who have led the way and laid strong foundations. If only Danial Dakin, that retained firefighter who had a vision, could see us now.