NZPFU dispute on command and control

As Members are aware the NZPFU has notified of a dispute on proposed changes to rank and command structures, and gave notice to FENZ that their intended consultation processes would be in breach of the NZPFU collective agreement.

Yesterday FENZ CEO Rhys Jones sent everyone a notice yesterday detailing the extended timeframes for the proposed Tranche 2 and 2B restructuring:

  • Once the NZPFU have received the consultation document, we will ensure it is distributed to all of our members and will provide a timeframe for members to forward to the union their views. We will be in contact with your local to put in a process to enable this to happen.

  • The NZPFU will present the consistent collective views as part of a comprehensive response at the appropriate time.

  • FENZ’s practice of sending information directly to members via “consider this” is bypassing your union and not consistent with the consultation clause in your agreement. They have now responded to our concerns on this issue.

  • We do not view the “consider this” process as a suitable platform for consulting on serious health and safety matters such as rank and command structures, new management structures and position description changes as is likely for FRMOs. It places equal weight on comments from those that are directly affected with those that are not affected at all.

  • Given the alleged numbers of non-career firefighters in the organisation, the “consider this” process can be used as a numbers game to prove support. The results are not necessarily reflective of those posting as it uses social media icons such as “like” which can mean the comment is liked but not necessarily agree with the views. This is not a sound process for consultation.

We now have FENZ’s response to our notification of dispute and previous communications where we had set out our concerns.

While FENZ continue to maintain that they “will always appoint people into management positions who have the required skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications to effectively undertake the position” they do not mean that they will only employ professional career firefighters into management positions that have command and control over professional career firefighters.

FENZ’s response to our dispute confirms our concerns that this restructure will ultimately result in non-career personnel managing career firefighters. This would be done through non-career personnel being fast-tracked through an interim or transition competency assessment framework “that would be implemented to ensure that candidates for the proposed new District and Group Manager roles were trained and competent for the emergency response…”

If the intention is to only have professional career firefighters with the current qualification, service and experience requirements in positions of management and command and control, there would be no need to assist “candidates” with a transition competency framework.

FENZ is prepared to continue to march towards a restructure that will deconstruct the necessary rank and command structures when they acknowledge they do not have a permanent competency framework in place.

Any degrading of rank and command structures is a serious health and safety issue for the community and for those responding. The rank and command structures ensure the most qualified and experienced firefighter makes the decisions. It is your first and last line of protection. It does not have to change to incorporate Rural into FENZ – that is an excuse to undermine the profession of career firefighting.

Recognising the differences in skills and experience and qualifications is not “divisive” – our position genuinely puts the health and safety of firefighters and the protection of the public paramount.

Professional career firefighters have the training and qualifications to respond to the full range of responsibilities under sections 11 and 12 of the Fire and Emergency Act and do so. We recognise there are others in the organisation that have experience in some of those response responsibilities and we are not undermining their backgrounds or capabilities. But these proposals will undermine your qualifications, experience and capabilities and severely curb any career path.

A unified fire service does not mean forsaking the necessary safe systems of work. There is no requirement under the Fire and Emergency Act to dismantle critical rank and command structures. The incorporation of three arms (professional career, urban volunteer and rural) can be done recognising and respecting the differences.

It is important that as Members you are privy to the full responses from FENZ. For your information please see attached:

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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