AUXILIARY UPDATE : 14 february 2017

Retention Allowance – Dispute

Your union has notified QFES that we are in dispute regarding their (proposed) methodology when determining eligibility of auxiliary firefighters to the entitlement within clause 15.4 of the auxiliary award (retention allowance).

Clause 15.4 provides for a retention allowance paid for two reasons, a) attendance at scheduled weekly training, and b) attendance at fire calls.  Both entitlements carry some criteria auxiliaries must meet so as to be eligible to receive the allowance.

For determining your attendance record at scheduled weekly training (training nights), QFES has proposed to measure each auxiliary’s percentage of completion of the ‘core skills training program’ (CSTP), instead of whether or not you have attended a minimum of 75% of training nights (the wording in the award).

Your union sees this entitlement, and how access to it ought to be measured, as a simple issue. 

QFES on the other hand appears to have decided to measure something entirely different from that set out in the award, both putting themselves potentially in breach of the award, and overly complicating the matter. It may be that QFES does not know how to measure who attends training, it may some other reason or reasons they’ve chosen not to comply with our interpretation of the award.

We have written seeking a simple explanation of the matter and are currently waiting on a reply from QFES as to their final position. 

Importantly I wanted to communicate to you that we have also told QFES not to start processing payments using their proposed methodology, as it may lead to auxiliaries being incorrectly paid, or not paid, thus leading to under/over payment claims.  Despite our sensible request, QFES may choose to continue to use a methodology we consider is in clear breach of the award and to then pay auxiliaries they think ought to receive the entitlement.

If they do this and then the dispute is settled in favour of the UFUQ’s interpretation, QFES will try to blame the UFUQ for the under/over payment issues.

This trite tactic to make unions look bad ought to be avoided for obvious reasons that have financial impact on many auxiliaries if that’s how they decide to proceed. 

Your union wants to resolve this dispute, determine who ought to be paid, and then make QFES pay the correct people.

We also wanted you to know that we have been waiting over a month for the reply to our request for QFES’ position, and we appear to be left with no alternative but to lodge a dispute at the QIRC, to force the QFES to attend a compulsory conference to allow the QIRC to hear both sides of the matter.

Having QFES explain their decision and rationale to the QIRC may also be the only way we can get to hear QFES’ side of the story, since they haven’t been able to tell us for over a month.

Attached is a link to the award here

I will keep you updated when either QFES reply, or the UFUQ requests a conference from QIRC, or both.

Response times

Your union was recently informed of the commencement of an internal inquiry by fire and rescue into response times and a trend identified that they are increasing.

This is a complex issue that must be handled appropriately as it has far reaching ramifications.

We are all aware that there are many factors, known and unknown, potentially influencing response times.

I want to assure you that your union will push to ensure that the investigation into response times considers any and all potential causes including those beyond station response.

We are also all aware that the levy collection boundaries do not and should not determine the response time expectations.

Instead, fire and rescue should strive to achieve world’s best practice response times and publish those, and then work to maintain and improve them.

Your union considers that the ability of fire and rescue crews to respond quickly is vital to the health and safety of you and your colleagues, and that of the Queensland public.

The work that the response time review team is doing so far involves trying to identify general response capability at a range of stations across Queensland and the review team have welcomed your union’s involvement in the process.

We thank them for their consultative approach to date.

The state office has already provided some feedback to the response time review process and we will be on the front foot to ensure that –
a) response times are as good as they can be, and
b) that you and your fellow members don’t have the blame put upon you that the problem is somehow at station level.

Your union encourages an examination of response times and I will keep you informed of the progress of any reviews that occur.

QFES restructure of the restructure – Update

QFES has made many statements about restructuring the agency since a process commenced of reversing the doomed-from-the-start changes forced through by the Newman led government, such as those arising from the completely discredited Keelty, Malone, Alison, KPMG, Deloittes, and other secret reports.

It’s been difficult to keep up with the announcements arising from the multitude of reports coming at you from all directions.

One thing that is certain is that firefighters and fire communication officers are getting on with the job of protecting 100% of Queensland, whilst all of this goes on around them.

Your union accepts that the void left by the PSBA being dismantled needs to be addressed.  It appears that whilst QFES are correcting the mistakes made by the introduction of the failed PSBA, they have taken the opportunity to have a little tinker with all areas of QFES.

As with the response times review, on your behalf, I want to ensure that you and your colleagues in fire and rescue are able to do your job safely.  We want to protect and strengthen fire and rescue to ensure we get the best outcome possible out of the current restructure process.

You may also be aware that a ‘refresh’ of role descriptions is underway.  This is occurring alongside the restructure.

I thank AC Short and his role description refresh team for their open and consultative attitude to the refresh process to date.

Your union is involved in the refresh of all role descriptions relevant to our membership and expects that for operational firefighters and fire communication officers, very little will be required to change but for cosmetic updates to match new HR systems and organisational naming etc.

I will keep you updated on both the progress of the latest restructure process, and the role description refresh process.

FireCom ‘Gate 3’ – Update

QFES has invited your union to participate in a committee to begin working out a way forward for fire communications.

Again, this is a welcome change in methods from QFES, when compared to the secretive and ultimately disastrous ‘Gate 3’ model that failed to launch in 2016 without any consultation at all with your union.

Your union rightly expects to be consulted on ALL matters that affect our employment.

We will ensure we remain fully informed and that we are given the opportunity to clearly present our suggestions to the committee that is to be formed to manage the way forward for fire communications in Queensland.

I will call for fire communication member representatives to participate in the committee to nominate their interest in the near future.