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FBEU SITREP 10/2013 “Another 2,500 reasons to be a Union member”

March 8, 2013

money

  • Retained Award update: 2.5% pa interim wage rise confirmed
  • Permanent’s wage rise in this week’s pay
  • AMP update: new Guide issued
  • Another 2,500 reasons to be a Union member

 

Retained Award update: 2.5% pa interim wage rise confirmed

Further to SITREPs 8 and 9 of 2013, the Union can confirm that the Department and Government have now agreed to our demand for an interim 2.5% increase in retainers, allowances and rates of pay for retained members, backdated to take effect from Friday 22 February. The Union welcomes this as a sensible development that should allow the parties to carry out and hopefully reach an agreed settlement for a new Retained Award. More to follow.

Permanent’s wage rise in this week’s pay

The third and final wage increase for all permanent members under the 2011 Awards took effect on 22 February and should therefore have appeared in members’ pays this week. As an indication of the benefit for members, this resulted in fortnightly wage increases of $52.18 for Recruits, $69.90 for Senior Firefighters, $84.02 for Level 2 Station Officers and $100.84 for Inspectors.

These increases follow the first increase in June 2011, with the second increase some 8 months later in February 2012.  Members are again reminded that because 2011 Awards brought the operative date for future increases forward by 16 weeks, from June to February, that those Awards have actually delivered increases of 3%pa. Members are also reminded that the Awards we secured in March 2011 – and therefore these wage increases – would not now be permitted under O’Farrell’s public sector IR laws.

AMP update: new Guide issued

Further to SITREP 46/12, which confirmed that arbitration proceedings had resulted in the IRC ordering a revised Attendance Management Policy for permanent members and SITREPs 4/13, 7/13 and 8/13, which discussed the issuing of show cause letters to members in Regional Command, the Department has confirmed that some 200-300 show cause letters are expected to be delivered to Metro Command members next week.

In anticipation of this, the Union has today published a simple two-page guide for members who receive a show cause letter or direction to attend an interview. Click here to download a copy of the Guide. If you don’t get a letter then you don’t need to read it, but if you do then you obviously should.

Members continue to question how the Department can challenge a member for sick leave taken within the Award’s 144 hour cumulative limit, and supported by a medical certificate. The answer, however unpalatable, is because the IRC says it can.

The AMP is a product of the Award’s Clause 23 (see subclauses 23.9 onwards) and was originally ordered in 2008 by a Full Bench (two Judges and Deputy President) of the IRC, so it’s difficult to question its legality. But to avoid doubt that a medical certificate has never been the end of the story, the Award’s subclause 23.7.8 pre-dates the AMP by decades:

23.7.8    The employee shall prove to the satisfaction of the Department, or, in the event of a dispute, to the satisfaction of the Industrial Relations Commission, that the employee was unable, on account of such illness or incapacity, to attend for duty on that day or days for which sick leave is claimed. Payment shall not be allowed for such leave until this condition is fulfilled. A medical certificate tendered in support of such claim shall state the illness or incapacity, and that the employee was prevented by such illness or incapacity from attending for duty on the day or days for which sick leave is claimed.

Members also continue to question why we are expected to get our sick leave under 87 hours when we are entitled under the Award to 144. The truth is that in 2008 we unambiguously agreed to reduce sick leave to an average of 87 hours per firefighter per year in return for larger payrises under that Award, hence subclause 23.9:

23.9       The Parties to this Award are committed to ensuring a reduction in the cost associated with sick leave.

No, the 87 hour figure isn’t in the Award, but it is on transcript and the IRC remains well aware of it. There’s also no stepping around the fact that we’d gone backwards since then. While sick leave was running at an average of 107 hours in 2008, it was running at close to 120 hours by mid-2012. Needless to say we were neither pleased, nor shocked, when the IRC ordered a new, tougher AMP last November.

Still, it was not all one way traffic and we were able to secure numerous improvements in the new AMP, including the trialed accumulation of unused NMC’s and better protections for members throughout the review and interview process.

The AMP is what it is. There is no doubt that it is lawful and as such, we have no choice but to acknowledge and work within it. Members are encouraged to read both the AMP itself and our Guide, and to contact your State Committee official with any further questions or comments.

Another 2,500 reasons to be a Union member

This week, the Union secured more than $2,500 for a member who had been short-changed by the Department following his medical retirement in December last year. The Department’s underpayment resulted from an incorrect calculation of the member’s retirement benefit under our D&D Award.

Members should not assume that because the Department tells you something that it’s correct – particularly when it comes to your wages. We come across substantial payroll errors on a regular basis so members are advised to always check your pay and leave records, and to contact the Union for a 2ndopinion if you are unsure.

Darin Sullivan
President and Acting State Secretary

About Darin Sullivan (1967 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is 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. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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