CODE 2, VOL 36, NO 13 : 04 july 2022
UFUQ PUSHES FOR ADDITIONS TO LIST OF CANCERS COVERED BY PRESUMPTIVE LEGISLATION
For over a decade, the UFUQ had been pushing for a reverse of the ‘onus of proof’ for firefighters claiming workers’ compensation when they are diagnosed with specific types of cancers. In December 2013, the then state government opposition leader (now Queensland Premier Palaszczuk) in an agreement with the UFUQ wrote to us confirming that upon return to government (which occurred in January 2015) she would ensure presumptive legislation was introduced into the Queensland workers’ compensation system. That agreement with your state union happened as promised.
The list of cancers covered at that stage was based on scientific research of the difference between firefighters and other people in the likelihood of contracting certain cancers. Scientific research into firefighters and cancer continues to occur around the world.
On 1 July 2022 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published an announcement that their firefighting occupational exposure research working group was about to publish a summary of findings regarding new research into the complex relationship between occupational exposure as a firefighter and likelihood of contracting specific types of cancer.
In its statement of 1 July 2022, IARC stated –
‘Occupational exposure as a firefighter is complex. Firefighters respond to various types of fire (e.g. structure, wildland, and vehicle fires) and non-fire events (e.g. vehicle accidents, medical incidents, hazardous material releases, and building collapses). They may be exposed to a mixture of combustion products (e.g. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, particulates), chemicals in firefighting foams, flame retardants, diesel exhaust, building materials, and other hazards, such as night shift work and ultraviolet radiation. Changes in types of fire, building materials, personal protective equipment, and roles and responsibilities among firefighters have resulted in significant changes in firefighter exposures over time.’
The IARC working group findings appear to suggest that –
1. A causal association exists between occupational exposure as a firefighter and mesothelioma, and
2. Credible positive associations were observed for melanoma.
You can find a copy of the IARC press release here.
The full results of this latest research are yet to be published, but on the basis of the preliminary findings being published, I have written to the Minister for Industrial Relations (Minister Grace oversees the workers’ compensation laws) asking for an urgent meeting to re-enliven submissions your union made to the Queensland state government parliamentary committee considering amendments to the workers’ compensation legislation.
In our submissions, your union asked for mesothelioma and skin cancers to be added to the list of cancers covered by the presumptive legislation for firefighters. This request was based on emerging research and evidence, such as that now published by IARC. These presumptive cancer laws have already provided considerable benefit to many members facing the terrible circumstances of being diagnosed with specific types of cancer, where it has been demonstrated that working as a firefighter has likely caused the condition.
Monitoring the scientific research as it is published across the world, and then pushing for extensions to the range of cancers covered by the presumptive laws is something your state UFUQ has been, and will keep, pushing for as more evidence becomes available.
I will update you on the matter after a meeting with the Minister.
REMINDER – NO UFUQ FEE RISE THIS YEAR
You may recall that your SCM voted in May 2022 not to raise the membership fees for any financial industrial members in financial year 2022/2023.
SCM made this decision due to –
• efficiencies in the way the state office industrial and administrative functions are performing, and
• ongoing savings due to the UFUQ ending its association with the UFUA, and
• increasing membership numbers (currently the highest they’ve ever been at over 2600 and growing steadily due to the 357 additional firefighters, and the number of senior officers returning to UFUQ membership).
Also, your UFUQ membership fee tax statements are being prepared and you should expect to receive them before mid-July 2022 to your private email addresses. So this is a reminder to update your details with your union if you haven’t done so for a while.
John Oliver - General Secretary
Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD