Fire and Rescue NSW says it is confident it will resolve a disagreement over overtime blowouts with the firefighters union before their next meeting with the industrial watchdog.
The Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) took the state government to the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) on Monday, arguing that plans to cut $64 million from firefighters’ entitlements over four years would compromise safety.
But Justice Frances Backman adjourned the matter until Thursday, and ordered the union to meet with Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher before the next IRC hearing.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Jim Hamilton says he remains committed to working with the union to reduce overtime costs and identify other efficiencies before Thursday’s hearing.
In the past month, overtime costs of $2.2 million have already been incurred, Mr Hamilton says.
“We believe that this issue needs to be urgently addressed as part of a broader package of culture change and budget cost-saving measures,” Mr Hamilton said in a statement.
“We are confident that the matter can be resolved before we return to the IRC.”
The union and Mr Gallacher are scheduled to meet on Thursday at 1pm (AEST), an hour before the case resumes before the IRC.
FBEU secretary Jim Casey said firefighters were working overtime to cover for colleagues on annual leave, and clamping down on entitlements would see up to eight Sydney stations shut down as firefighters filled staffing gaps elsewhere.
Mr Casey said he hoped Mr Gallacher would understand the union’s concerns and argue in cabinet against a 1.2 per cent budget-cut policy for NSW Fire and Rescue.
“He’s a hands-on minister and understands emergency services,” Mr Casey told AAP on Monday.
“We’re hoping sanity will prevail and the cuts will be reversed.”
Mr Hamilton said a proposal to extend a system of temporarily taking selected fire stations offline had been delayed and would be discussed further with the FBEU.
FBEU NSW president Darin Sullivan has said the union is prepared to fight the cuts with industrial action.