September 22, 2011
Inside this issue:
- Department found in breach of the Regs
- Retained Authorised Duties – off the station, but still on duty
- Two pump CAD responses to stay
- Drug and Alcohol meeting
- In Brief
Department found in breach of Regs
What do you do when the workplace cops continue to break their own laws?
SITREP 23/2011 (“Workplace Standards Bullies?”) blew the whistle on the Department’s new, whizz-bang Workplace Standards Branch (WSB) back on 17 June when we warned members that the WSB was acting in breach of the Fire Brigades Regulation and Standing Orders by demanding information from members and threatening action against those members if they did not provide it.
And today the Supreme Court of NSW confirmed, in a crystal clear judgment, what the Union had already warned the Department back in July – that the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner were both acting in breach of the Regulation by attempting to overturn the finding of a Formal Inquiry and refusing to immediately lift a member’s suspension. In short, they got it horribly wrong.
The Regulation and its disciplinary processes are not new, nor are they broken. They have been well understood by the Union and, until recent times, the Department. It certainly worked without problems when the process was overseen by the PSCO – a firefighter. So what has changed? Not the Regulation, and not the Union’s understanding, but rather the blow-ins who descended on the Department early last year and have been wreaking havoc ever since.
The Union earlier this year agreed to review the disciplinary processes set out within the Regulation as part of the settlement for our 3% pa wage increases through the 2011 Awards. Importantly, that agreement was conditional on any new processes maintaining all existing rights and protections. The continued WSB abuses, the Department’s obvious misunderstanding of the current disciplinary processes and today’s Supreme Court bombshell all combine to place a large question mark over the future of this review. More to follow.
Retained Authorised Duties – off the station, but still on-duty
Members are reminded that retained staff are entitled to be paid authorised duties when contacted at their primary employment (or elsewhere) about non-emergency FRNSW work, for example, an administrative issue. This is happening more and more, with local management seemingly forgetting that most retained members have primary employment commitments. A retained firefighter can perform authorised duties in any location where they are required and his or her primary work location is no exception (see the Retained Award’s Table 3, Authorised Duties).
For payment, claimants need to ensure that they place an omitted entry in their station’s Occurrence Book noting the time, duration, date, place and the duty performed, as this will verification if an audit is conducted. Further, the Captain must also authorise the payment.
Two pump CAD responses to stay
The Union understands Comms Operators may have been directed by management to override the predetermined two FRNSW pumper response level for some incidents. Members in Comms are advised to adhere to the response protocols as determined by CAD. Where the system recommends a two pump response, two appliances should be sent and both appliances should be FRNSW pumping appliances. Any RFS response should be in addition to, not in lieu of, the standard FRNSW response.
Members should ignore any request from management to alter the response protocols unless they are provided with that request in writing. Where any written instructions from management to override the two pump response protocols, or any member who notices a change in the response protocols, should notify the Union Office immediately.
Drug and Alcohol meeting
The Union reaffirmed our opposition to random testing once again last week when we met with the Department over its proposed Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy (AOD). However, there was some common ground established over the need for some aspects of the current Drug and Alcohol Protocol to be amended, and particularly whether the battery of tests remain appropriate. The Union also asked the Department about the cost of developing the AOD so far, and how much it will cost if implemented. We further asked if RFS firefighters will be subject to the same testing regime given our co-operative firefighting arrangements? Management shifted uncomfortably in their chairs, but that was about it. Stay tuned on that one.
In the meantime the Union also found an article from the Government News website (http://www.governmentnews.com.au/2011/08/03/article/Fire-and-Rescue-NSW-manages-employee-misconduct-with-software/IPLSYRMLAK.html) dated 3 August 2011 announcing that a company had been chosen by FRNSW to provide software that “will also be used for drug and alcohol tests and monitoring processes”. This occurred well before the Union had an opportunity to respond to the AOD and serves as further confirmation that the Department had already decided long ago to unilaterally impose the proposed policy. That is not consultation – although it is yet another breach of the awards (Permanent 39.2, Retained 30.2). The Department has yet to respond.
- The terminations announced in last week’s SITREP 36/2011 (“I thank you and commend you” … and sack you) were all placed on hold, save for those members who expressly agreed to medical retirement, pending the return of that dispute to the IRC. That was expected to occur yesterday but was instead listed for tomorrow morning. Members will be advised of further developments as and when they occur, and immediately if necessary by way of a Code Red.
- Commissioner’s Orders 2011/20 includes a “re-usable personal protective clothing policy” which is mostly, but not wholly agreed. The Union’s position has not changed from SITREP 27/2011. In particular, members are reminded that helmets are not to be re-issued under any circumstances.
- The notice and agenda for the Union’s 101st AGM to be held on Tuesday 18 October 2011 was faxed to all members’ workplaces and posted on the Union’s website yesterday. Notice of related Sub-Branch meetings will be circulated separately over the coming fortnight.
Acting State Secretary and President