CODE 2, VOL 34, NO 54 : 02 October 2020

UFUQ PUSH FOR 350 MORE FIREYS AS ELECTION LOOMS

With the Queensland state election looming (Saturday 31 October 2020), your union has been in ongoing discussions with both QFRS and the state government about the urgent need for 350 additional firefighters to allow for a move to full and safe crewing of every shift at every station in the state.  We’ve also been pushing for more fire communication officers as that role is constantly having more responsibility and increased workload placed upon it and crewing shortages in fire communication centres are all too frequent and completely avoidable.

Prior to the last state election in late 2017, Queensland Premier Palaszczuk responded to your union’s campaign for more firefighters and committed funding for 147 additional firefighters and that commitment has been honoured. Those additional 147 are now employed across the state.

That rise in numbers was the first genuine lift in decades and barely scratched the surface. You told your union many more were needed.

I recently sent two emails to all firefighter members outlining the reasons for the push for another increase of 350 full time professional firefighters.  Those reasons remain, and if anything, become more pressing every day due to the always increasing demands on your time within Fire and Rescue and also demands placed upon you to attend an ever increasing range of emergencies.

Having more firefighters coming into the roster across the state will allow more trucks to be fully crewed, and it will allow more opportunities for discretionary leave such as long service leave to be taken.  It will also, most importantly, increase the numbers of available firefighters for emergency situations and deployments.

In 2017, QFRS didn’t want to talk to your union or the government about additional firefighters and even told the government during the discussions the numbers didn’t need to increase. I am glad to say that your union’s discussions with QFRS since then have resulted in senior management seeing the light and they now agree these numbers are needed to ensure every station is fully crewed as a default.

If your union’s push for 350 more firefighters is successful, we will need to work with QFRS to ensure the systems are ready to handle the increased intake.  But the first step is getting the numbers funded and agreed to and announced by the state government. 

With the election date looming, rest assured your union is opening every possible door and asking for more firefighters.

QIRC PUBLISHES UPDATED AWARD

QFES Employees Award - State 2016 (29 September 2020 reprint):

I have reported to you over the past 12 months that work to update and correct your award has been progressing.  The application to vary your award by agreement was submitted to the industrial commission in August 2020 and the Decision (which granted the application in full) and a new award became available and operational on 29 September 2020.

You can find the newly updated award here

In October, I will email all members covered by the award a breakdown of all changes.

There are many tidy ups and corrections and quite a few rewrites to allow you to find a reference for some of the longstanding terms and conditions of your employment.

You will recall the recent debacle about the government legislated wage deferral and then the state wage case Decision.  At that time, I explained that the award contains your minimum rates whilst CA19 is the wages you’re actually paid, as negotiated every three years.  This new copy of the award contains your minimum rates as at the 2020 state wage case Decision.

A great example of what’s been updated in the new award to reflect the way you work is your entitlements when you are rostered to work (or rostered off) on the Queens birthday public Holiday, which this year is Monday 5 October.

Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday:

Each year when the timesheet for the period including the annual Queen’s Birthday comes around your union receives multiple contacts about what entitlements can be claimed. 

The new Award (link above) explains what applies for the first time ever in an industrial instrument at clause 23 (1) (b) (ii & iii).  This should allow all members to check for themselves what entitlements they have, and to complete their timesheets accordingly. Any questions regarding what code to use on your timesheet should be directed to HR or your local branch representative.

NEW ENTITLEMENT TO PAID LONG SPOUSAL LEAVE

I am pleased to inform you that the Queensland Government has gazetted changes to the paid parental leave directive to provide equal access to the full amount of paid leave for both parents.

All full time, part time and long-term casual firefighters and fire communications officers are now entitled to access the full amount of paid parental leave (up to 14 weeks) if they are the primary care giver to their young child (regardless of whether they are the parent giving birth or not).

If the other parent is also accessing parental (either maternity or spousal) leave from the same directive, the entitlement of 14 weeks can be shared between the two parents.

As you are likely aware, there has previously only been an entitlement for one week of spousal leave, even if the spouse were to take on the primary care giver role. The entitlement to 14 weeks paid leave has historically only been available as maternity leave for the mother.

The introduction of paid long spousal leave will allow any of you as a parent the flexibility to manage the care of your newborn child in a way that fits in with your work.  It is a sensible move that reflects the dynamics of modern families, and that recognises that you might want to spend time caring for your children during their early months.

The new entitlement to long spousal leave has been gazetted and the entitlement has commenced and can now be taken at any point before the child’s first birthday. 

Your union is very supportive of this policy initiative and we took the opportunity to provide feedback and assistance throughout the development of the directive.

The directive can be accessed here.

John Oliver - General Secretary

Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary 
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD