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#FireStrike UPDATE: Victory for NSW firefighters @FBEU + #Ausunions

June 22, 2012

Inside this issue:

  • O’Farrell rolled – firefighters Workers Comp saved
  • Union wins Easter Sunday public holiday dispute
  • Permanent members’ annual leave balance adjustment – update

 

 

O’Farrell rolled – firefighters Workers Comp saved

“If you think I am angry, you are right” thundered Premier Barry O’Farrell yesterday. Unfortunately for O’Farrell and his Government, the hundreds of striking firefighters with their appliances outside were proof that he was not alone.

Ordinarily, bills of this sort of complexity are tabled for several weeks to allow the Opposition and others the opportunity to properly review them but this rotten Government, knowing just how crook its reforms really were, rammed them through within two short days. The Government set the timetable, not us. If O’Farrell hadn’t tried to ram through these reforms overnight, we would have been able to meet with them and work through the issues without the need to strike.

O’Farrell also slammed yesterday’s strike as “one of the most irresponsible actions I have ever heard of by a public sector union in the history of this State” – a big call by any measure. What the Premier did not know was that it would soon become one of the more successful actions by a public sector union when, at 0230 hours this morning, Parliament voted to exclude firefighters and paramedics from the reforms.

The Union welcomes Parliament’s decision to exempt us from these savage new laws, but insists they must still be scrapped for all workers. The FBEU will continue to wholeheartedly back Unions NSW, other affiliates and the broader labour movement in the ongoing campaign to defend sick and injured workers in this state.

It was also widely misreported that we have been ordered not to strike for the next three months and further, that the Union’s officials have agreed to this. The somewhat different truth is that the IRC yesterday made an Award which requires that if we do strike again within the next three months, that skeleton staffing is to be provided.

The decision to strike without skeleton crews was a difficult one. The State Committee did not recommend it, nor the members vote to support it, lightly. But our decision was vindicated by the result.

My congratulations again to all members, and particularly to the hundreds of members who stopped work yesterday. Make no mistake, the media attention that your action generated fueled the political pressure that followed. Every firefighter who, from this day on, suffers a workplace injury (a regrettably inevitable fact of life in our profession) is now in your debt. The Union’s Fighting Fund will again provide financial relief for striking members whose pays are docked. Further details to follow.

While we can be rightly proud as a Union that through strong action we have been able to successfully defend our existing workers compensation rights, members should remain mindful that further attacks are coming. The O’Farrell Government is busy shifting the wealth of the State from those who work for a living to the top end of town. That’s why they’ve attacked workers comp, why they’ve slashed our budget and why they’re slashing wages. We’ve won this round only. 

Union wins Easter Sunday public holiday dispute

Further to SITREP 19/2012, the Industrial Court’s Justice Haylen yesterday handed down the judgment in our dispute with the Department over the treatment of the Easter Sunday public holiday. In short, we won and the Department (which strongly resisted every attempt by the Union to settle the dispute by negotiation) was belted in a decision which, according to its own calculations, will now cost the Department over $1M in retrospective consolidated leave and an additional $500K every year after that.

Because the Union’s position that Easter Sunday should be treated as an additional public holiday for the purposes of sub-clause 6.4 of the Permanent Award prevailed, any permanent member who actually worked on Easter Sunday 2011 or 2012, and indeed who works on any future Easter Sunday holiday, is entitled to be credited the same number of hours of consolidated leave as those hours actually worked by them on that day.

Permanent members of Inspector rank or below should now have their consolidated leave balances adjusted:

  • for those who worked on Easter Sunday 2011 (24 April):

A Platoon = 6 hours consolidated leave (1800 to 2400 hours);

B Platoon = 8 hours consolidated leave (0001 to 0800 hours);

D Platoon = 10 hours consolidated leave (0800 to 1800 hours) and

E Platoon = 12 hours consolidated leave (0600 to 1800 hours).

and

  • for those who worked on Easter Sunday 2012 (8 April):

A Platoon = 10 hours consolidated leave (0800 to 1800 hours);

B Platoon = 6 hours consolidated leave (1800 to 2400 hours);

C Platoon = 8 hours consolidated leave (0001 to 0800 hours) and

E Platoon = 12 hours consolidated leave (0600 to 1800 hours).

Think of this as a gift from the outgoing Keneally Labor Government, which in its dying days legislated for Easter Sunday to be an extra public holiday (see SITREP 42/2010, “Additional gazetted holiday bonanza, Part 2”).

Members who worked overtime on either day are also entitled to be credited the same number of hours of consolidated leave as those hours actually worked by them on that day. This consolidated leave credit is in addition to the penalty rates paid for the overtime worked.

Only those members who actually worked on Easter Sunday are entitled to the additional consolidated leave. It follows that members who were rostered to work on Easter Sunday but did not actually work on the day due to any form of leave or a part-change of shift are not entitled to the additional consolidated leave and further, that members who perform a part-change of shift then on the additional public holiday get the consolidated leave, not the member who was originally rostered to work that day. 

Permanent members’ annual leave balance adjustment – update

The Union has reviewed the Commissioner’s message regarding the 38-hour leave payroll error and can confirm the proposed correction appears to be in accordance with the Award. The correct accrual of 38-hour leave is 91.2 hours per annum, which is 3.5 hours per fortnight – not 4 hours.

Whilst it is correct that firefighters get 2 hours per week of 38 hour week to compensate for working an average 42 hour week, there are not an equal number of fortnights per annum and some of that leave is credited as consolidated leave.

Affected members should have now received letters advising them of the impact on their personal leave balances. Given that some 77 fortnights have passed since the error was made most members would have accrued approx. 39 additional hours of 38-hour leave.

For a full explanation of permanent firefighter annual leave, how it is calculated and how it is taken members should read the ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Annual Leave in FRNSW’ on the Union’s website.

The Commissioner’s message that ‘this is of little or no consequence to officers and firefighters on the 10/14 roster who are on annual leave groups – it is merely an incorrect “book entry”’ is somewhat misleading. The reality is members, particularly retiring members, are going to notice that loss of leave, almost a week’s worth, albeit a week they were not supposed to get. Nice to know that management thinks we can afford to lose a week of leave here and there.

Regarding 38-hour leave more generally, members are reminded that you may be entitled to a credit of consolidated leave if you are transferred to a different annual leave group and that transfer was not at your request (see Union notice: Leave Audit dispute settled). Claims for such credits should be made at the time of the leave group change using the Union’s Change of Annual Leave Group form also on the Union’s website.

 

Jim Casey
State Secretary

While we can be rightly proud as a Union that through strong action we have been able to successfully defend our existing workers compensation rights, members should remain mindful that further attacks are coming. The O’Farrell Government is busy shifting the wealth of the State from those who work for a living to the top end of town. That’s why they’ve attacked workers comp, why they’ve slashed our budget and why they’re slashing wages. We’ve won this round only.

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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