Integration - Union Concerns

Please find attached correspondence between the Union and the Chief Executive which outlines the Chief Executives response to carious concerns put formally to the Chief Executive.

Some of the answers require follow-up and the Union will be doing this – for example Lateral Entry

Our issues include

  1. Volunteers being trained to the same level must attain the same level of qualification, time in training and assessment processes
  2. Those volunteers who manage to achieve the equality will not be used to replace career firefighter vacancies/ OT
  3. Volunteer firefighters will still be subject to career TAPs when they join i.e. recruits course and onwards
  4. There will be an evaluative framework that will decide where investment is made i.e. new stations, turning volunteer stations into career and vice versa
  5. Lateral entries will not be considered for operations and developing staff will be considered first before employing laterally / externally
  6. Career firefighters would love to be and feel valued for their contribution, not painted with the same brush as volunteers, we are different, our diversity should be embraced and used to the organisations advantage.
  7. Volunteers and career firefighters riding together, our issue is a career officer must be in charge if this is to happen and will not happen as mentioned above to replace career firefighters. If you see putting in career firefighters to augment volunteer stations then the officer must be career. (reasons for this are apparent in the attached document which outlines the differences between qualifications etc)
  8. What happens if a perverse effect happens and volunteers do not undertake the greater learning and training? It may affect volunteer sustainability. Sometimes, what we already have is perhaps the best outcome.

Thanks for the engagement with us over offering assurance to our Career people that we are working on their behalf.

Responding to the points raised in your e-mail, below, I can clearly and honestly state that I and the senior management of FENZ hold the Career staff in high regard and we respect the skills that they have which brings the strength to our organisation.

Job Security. Neither the increased emphasis on supporting Volunteerism nor the programme to merge the urban and rural fire organisations seek to reduce Career numbers, either in the short term integration phase until 2020 or beyond that in the unification phase. Similarly, the greater emphasis on Risk Reduction activities does not envisage reduced firefighter numbers, nor reduced cost of the organisation. The intention of all these programmes is to build the capability of the organisation and to fill the critical holes in capability that exist at the moment. This may mean that in the future we may need to reallocate resources from where they currently are located to where they are needed more, but that will be an open process driven by a transparent evaluation mechanism.

Training Levels and Competency. As we have discussed, the foundation for our work on skill levels across the organisation is based on the concept of Competency – a pass/fail criteria. We need the volunteers to be competent to handle the emergency situations in their areas and we are satisfied that they attain these levels. We do accept that over and above competency, the Career Firefighters achieve a high level of proficiency in those skills. You also achieve a wide range of other competencies, such as some highly specialised skills, that most volunteers do not have. Therefore we want to assure you that we acknowledge the unique and irreplaceable role that career firefighters hold in FENZ.

Career staff and Volunteers working together. An area that we need to discuss more is regarding the conditions of how Career staff and Volunteers can and should work together in the future. My desire is for there to be significantly more interaction between the two streams in order to enable the Volunteers to improve their own proficiency levels. I see this being done through programmes such as re-establishing the ‘scholarship’ scheme where volunteers can spend time on a career station, shadowing an urban crew. I also think that there is an opportunity for us to examine the possibility of career staff being attached to volunteer stations to assist if there is a leadership gap (not only at the top), which may also allow things such as compassionate postings to locations for career staff (for example if parents are ailing, etc). We would need to build up career numbers before we get into looking at this last point in too wide a scale, however.

A more pressing aspect to this, which we discussed at our last meeting, was how we wanted to build on the success of the Tactical Command Course. Following our discussion, more work has been done to scope this into a different approach: away from being a qualification course to being an ‘Incident and Leadership Development program’. As the name suggests this is to be a development program which aims to provide an opportunity for all operational and non-operational leaders at this level of leadership, and eventually others from the wider emergency response sector, to come together to:

  • Develop a common understanding of how the different parts of the FENZ organisation work in order to enhance our ability to work together in an integrated way
  • Develop as leaders
  • Enhance individual and collective understanding of operational decision-making and tactics required in the wider range of incidents that FENZ is required to respond to
  • Build on and grow a common understanding for the skills, knowledge and competencies of all participants and understand how the collective use of these can add value in the range of first response situations FENZ is required to respond to.
  • Build awareness and develop the skills of our leaders to understand, identify and work through physical and mental well-being issues at an individual, self and team level.
  • Understanding the value and strength that comes from having a diverse and inclusive organisation and building the leadership awareness and skills required to achieve this.

I hope that with these changes to the purpose and philosophy of the course, that the PFU will be support the attendance by Career staff.

Lateral Entries. Again I think we need to have a good conversation around this topic, to ensure that we have our definitions aligned. Recognition of prior learning and external/civilian skills are aspects that we need to have a shared agreement on, but in principle I agree with the concept that we will look first at our own people.

As I mention above, I would like to continue talking through some of these issues and would be keen to set another date when you would be available for a similar session as last time. We’re willing to listen and to discuss our view and want to get into the position where all parties have the confidence to talk the issues over honestly and openly.

Rhys Jones
Chief Executive

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