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Petty cash payments for meal and refreshment allowances – it’s the law

Further to last week’s SITREP, the Union is prosecuting the Department for breaches of both the Permanent Award and the Retained Award for failure to provide meal and refreshment allowances. The matter has been listed for mention in the Industrial Court on 24 May 2012.

The threshold issue is what status do our Awards enjoy? The Government, Treasury, and their HR blow-ins in Head Office, appear to view them as a guide that they can chose to ignore. The Acting Commissioner’s message to all members this week reflected such a view. The Union’s position is both straightforward and correct – our Awards are the law and must be complied with. If the Department believes that circumstances have changed, then they need to negotiate change in the Award with the Union. They cannot ignore the Awards and simply change entitlements by diktat. This time it is our meal and refreshment allowances and overtime meal allowances. What will be next?

In the meantime, the Union instruction given in SITREP 12/12 that all meal and refreshment allowances and overtime meal allowances are to continue to be paid out of petty cash remains in force. If there is no longer any petty cash at the Station, then all claims should be kept by Station Commanders for payment when petty cash becomes available. Each separate claim which remains unpaid at the end of the shift will be recorded by the Union as a breach of the relevant Award, with a fine (up to a maximum of $10,000 for each breach) in addition to payment of the allowances (with interest) sought through the Industrial Court. If you are not paid by the end of your shift email the Union office with full details to office@fbeu.net .

ESS (T&E) Claims….oh those problems!

In his message to staff the Acting Commissioner finally recognised what members have been saying for weeks now – that the new T&E module on ESS isn’t working.

The Union will monitor what assistance the new ‘Easy User Guides’, enhanced staffing of the HR Helpdesk, and access to computer training courses provides to members. It’s a pity the Department’s HR section didn’t think of that before they, without notice and consultation, implemented the new module.

Accordingly the Union instruction given in SITREP 13/12 that any member who experiences difficulty in making a claim (for payments other than meal and refreshment allowances and overtime meal allowances) when utilising the T&E area of the ESS portal on SAP is to immediately revert to claiming by way of previous practice, ie. miscellaneous voucher or petty cash, still stands. Members should by all means seek assistance from the Department’s helpdesk first, but if the problem is not quickly resolved should follow the Union’s instruction.

Financial relief for June/Sept 2011 stop works – 1 May deadline

Members claiming financial relief for last year’s stop work actions (see SITREP 02/12 and 07/12) may request an application form by calling the Union office on 9218 3444, or emailing office@fbeu.net. Applications must be received by 1 May 2012 – those received after that date will not be considered.

May Day March 2012 – Sunday 6 May

The 2012 Sydney May Day march will be held on Sunday 6 May with members meeting at Hyde Park North at 1200 hours. Following the march, the Union will be putting on food and beverages for members and their families. It would be helpful for catering purposes if members who intend coming along could let Alison or Julie know with a simple email (office@fbeu.net).

2012 Death and Disability Award filed

The Union has filed an application for a new Death and Disability Award following the nominal expiry of the 2009 Award on 22 March 2012. A copy of the application can be found here. The new Award increases the lump sum benefits for Death and Total and Permanent Incapacity in line with firefighter wage movements and it inserts a process for the assessment of fitness for duty and for entitlements to benefits. This process also includes an appeal process where a firefighter does not agree with the Brigade Medical Officer’s opinion. Over the coming weeks the Union will file its submissions in support of the application and the Department are required to respond by 29 May. If the parties do not reach agreement then the Industrial Relations Commission will arbitrate the matter. In the meantime the 2009 Award continues to operate.

Regional Hazmat and Comms Selection Procedures

Commissioner’s Orders last week advertised a vacancy at Hazmat Shellharbour inviting firefighters above the rank of QF to apply. Similarly the internal job board on the intranet has advertised a vacancy at the Newcastle Comms Centre. However, neither the Commissioner’s Order or the advertisement clearly set out the staged process for filling Regional Hazmat and Comm Centre positions as outlined in Clause 28 of the Permanent Award. These vacancies are offered in the following order:

Firstly, to members stationed in the relevant Transfer Area who meet the agreed essential criteria;
then if the vacancy is not filled, it is offered to members who meet the agreed essential criteria on the Residential Transfer Register for the relevant Transfer Area in order of the list; then
if the vacancy is not filled, the vacancy shall then be offered to all employees on the relevant General Transfer Register, with the first offer to be made to the highest placed applicant who meets the essential criteria and, if declined, to the next highest placed applicant who meets the essential criteria and so on until such time as the vacancy is filled;
In the event that all employees on that area’s General Transfer Register decline the offer of transfer, or that none of the General Transfer Register applicants meet the essential criteria the vacancy shall then be advertised by way of internal memo to all Comm Centre or Hazmat employees (as the case may be). Where there are more suitable applicants than positions, interviews shall be held to determine the successful applicant.
In the event that all Comm Centre or Hazmat employees (as the case may be) decline the offer of transfer, the vacancy shall then be advertised to all eligible employees through In Orders.
This process was the subject of a dispute in 2010/2011 when the Department did not correctly apply the procedures in Clause 28. Following that dispute the parties clarified the process and a Commissioner’s Order was issued to reflect that agreed process (see SITREP 31/2011 “Regional Comms transfer win”). Members applying should ensure they are aware of the Award selection process and if there are any concerns they should raise them with the Union as soon as possible.

Jim Casey
State Secretary

About Darin Sullivan (1969 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. I live and work on the NSW South Coast, Australia. I am a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around me. I am a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and work with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist I have long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. I am a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and have 30 years experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. I am passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. I am also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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