President's Blog: Heads up 5

2018 was a fast paced and busy year with large amounts of change within both FENZ and the Union.It has become apparent that change is now the new norm, it is certainly the climate we will be working in for the next 2-3 years and as such we must adapt accordingly.Our role as a Union in this change is to mitigate risk and maximise opportunities that benefit Career Fire fighters, the organisation and the public as a whole.

This blog sees a new Council for the Union. For clarification, the lead decision making body of the Union is the National conference, attended once a year by all Local Secretary’s, all Branch Officials and the Council Officials. The next decision making body when Conference isn’t sitting is the National Committee, made up of the Council (Pres V Pres and Sec) and the Presidents and Secretary’s of the 3 Branches; Southern, Central and Northern. When the Committee isn’t sitting, the Council runs the Union carrying all delegations required to effectively and efficiently run the Union.

The Council is myself, Joe Stanley and Wattie Watson. The National committee adds in, Norm, (Graeme Gilroy), Jim Ryburn, Greg Lee, Rob Hutchison, Boyd Raines and Shrimpy (Jeff Shrimpton).These people spend inordinate amounts of time representing the best interests of Career firefighters and the job and by definition, the public.

The year ahead will be another very busy one. We are intent on getting out and about visiting firefighters on fire stations around the country, Face to face meetings and hearing things direct are always the best way to go. Wattie will attend all of them and Joe and I will mix and match or all attend together to hear from you what bothers you, what you like and where we can all improve. We would also like to invite and meet the Union’s Life Honorary members in these visits to Fire Stations.

There are a number of priorities we want to address

  • Getting agreement on an MOU with all Locals and the National Committee as a way of operating into the future. It will set the tone and direction for our May Conference in Auckland on Union Values statement, beliefs system, Code of conduct and setting our short term, medium and long term strategic aspirations and goals.
  • Presumptive legislation to protect firefighters and occupational cancer. We will be developing a plan to create new legislation that recognises that firefighting is a carcinogenic occupation, actively gaining across party support, many, many meetings and lobbying to be done in this space but we are confident we will get this across the line.
  • Medical Co-response recognition. It was extremely obvious in the 18 ratification meetings I conducted that this and psychological harm was a key concern for firefighters. As soon as business is back to usual at NHQ we will be driving management to get in the room with Korn Ferry (previously Hay Group) to specifically look at medical co response working conditions and recognition of that work for firefighters.
  • Auckland task force. The team has met and started it’s work. It is vitally important that we keep driving for outcomes on this (and all) working groups. We are very excited to have a very diverse group of firefighters representing us at these meetings and with Secretary Wattie Watson being there with her depth and breadth of skills and knowledge I know we can look forward to some positive results.
  • Local elections. This year, around May, nominations for Local elections will commence which is the election of your Presidents, Vice Presidents and Secretary’s and Committee members, these are critical roles in a high-functioning Union which is serving its members well.We anticipate having detailed descriptions for each of those roles, with clear expectations on how to engage with your members and indeed influence local management. This is where the rubber hits the road in Unionism, there are some extremely successful local committees who work with members and management creating better outcomes for all, we want to learn from those successes and replicate them nationally.Critical to this important work is informing and attracting competent people from the get go and supporting them appropriately
  • Office organisation. We are looking to modernise the way the 2 offices work. Specifically having up to date databases with members’ private e mails and cell phone numbers so we can contact you directly should we need to and not rely on the employers email. Our office systems need updating, we have engaged a fixed term employee to oversee and manage this process as well as forming relationships with politicians aides and diarists. Management of diaries is critical too, especially given the scope of work and who is doing what. Management of information is critical, especially the archived material. We currently have boxes on boxes of information that is very difficult to organise.
  • Professional development. When we employed Wattie, she identified some opportunities to develop her already considerable skills. We respect this commitment to excellence and want to replicate it across our Council. We are currently looking at opportunities to undertake Governance, Finance and Strategy education with the view to providing members with more confidence that the Union continues to be in steady hands.

The priority list is a long and ambitious, I make no apologies for this, if we are to maintain our influence and credibility throughout the enormous amounts of changed predicted we must continually strive for excellence within.

That said, as each of you prepare for the year ahead I do hope you are all planning quality time with your loved ones and/or making space to do the things that simply make you happy, I know I will be.

Kind regards and stay safe

Ian Wright 
President 
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

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