President's Blog: Heads up 8

Getting back into the swing of things again after spending 2 weeks at NTC for the SSO TAPS course. I have to say, the facilities at NTC are amazing. Was great watching the new Recruits and SO practical exams over the 2 weeks. Great to see the high standards being maintained, not only by the instructors but the candidates also. Having only been on one National Training course since 2003 (ish) at White Island Brisbane, I was reminded of how valuable it is to mix with peers from across the country. Just like any fire station, it’s the crew that makes it. We certainly had an excellent crew from Dunedin through to Auckland. More than a few war stories were shared, plenty of laughs, even some singing and a lot of self-reflection in the mornings, for various reasons! A shout out to the instructors, the external leadership and brain people and the course mentors and of course the ever-valuable support staff that make everything happen. It is also good to know that the Union is very involved in the development and testing of this course.

Trainers have been at the very top of our mind recently. The carcinogen and presumptive legislation steam train is well under way. Trainers are of course at the most risk and have most opportunities for contamination with carcinogens due to the amount and frequency of live fire burns. Our goal is to with urgency, get newer flash hoods for NTC trainers. Ones that block up to 90% of contaminants compared to who knows how much for our original ones. Our view is that the issue process and type of flash hood needs urgent review with priority given to trainers. We are also pressing for showers after every evolution and new PPE after every evolution as well and as a matter of BAU going forward.

Union officials have also been busy contributing to the consulting and designing of the new live fire training facility at Woolston. A lot of emphasis has gone on carcinogen mitigation and cleanliness and hygiene.

During my recent SSO course at NTC, there was a lot of time spent on leadership, not management, but leadership, positive leadership. The Executive Officer course spends similar time on leadership, developing oneself, identifying your strengths and weaknesses and understanding why you do things a certain way. This is where we are very keen to progress our May conference in Auckland; on our own Union leaders. To make positive change and strengthen the Union, we need good strong positive leaders. Ones that will encourage others to step up, participate, help set and maintain standards. We have engaged an external facilitator to assist and lead our discussions and learnings. After all, if the employer sees value in developing leaders, then we should be keeping pace.

More good news from the Communications Centre’s. They have been agitating to get a name change from communicator to FENZ Dispatcher. This requires a variation to the CEA which is being done with the CEO and Secretary Watson. Members may not think this is much of a big deal, it does however demonstrate how to effect change mid negotiation cycle, engaging the membership and making positive change.

Continuing the training theme, there is a new ILDP (incident and leadership development program) kicking off in June. This is a further refined course following feedback from participants last year. This has had serious input from Career firefighters and senior Union officials. We are recommending that Career officers put their hands up for the early iterations of this course as it is a career firefighter course only. If you are interested in being on one of the courses at NTC through the middle part of the year please contact Ben Alton manager of Officer Training at NTC.

We have been very busy around pulling back some of the work that the Health and Safety/ Health Standards work have undertaken and the Tranche 2 design work. FENZ required a “realignment” around their expectations around health standards, testing, and everything that that meant. We have also managed to get FENZ’s attention regarding the tranche 2 work which involved Area and District management/commanders. We have for the last few weeks been expressing our point of view that these positions are critical to our members Safety and Wellbeing and for some of these positions to not have a requirement of Senior Career Operational firefighting experience is staggeringly short-sighted. We now have a Union SME inside that working design group who is probably the best researched person there in this space. As this work progresses we will need our members, to be extremely vocal about what is being proposed in tranche 2. There are some significant issues that we will be advocating on and you can assist us with this. We will again provide you with more direction on how you can help us influence this important work shortly.

I would also like to take this chance to remind members that this year is the Local Committee elections for the Union. This means the Local President, Vice President and Local Secretary and Local Committee members. An effective union is only as good as its members and indeed the leaders emerging from this membership.We need you to stand up and be counted and put your names forward for these positions. We have developed a job description of sorts to assist aspiring and continuing Local Officials to carry out their roles. It will define what rules and support is in place so that you know when meetings should be held, how to hold them, taking of minutes and communication lines and expectations and what entitlements you may receive. There will always have a chain of command to follow and a path should issues need to escalate, we are however, wanting locals to operate more co-operatively and inclusively in future with officials working through issues so that locals learn and develop themselves, with the national team providing more of a guidance and support role. The newly agreed NZPFU Charter will provide guidance and direction around how we operate and interact with each other. Secretary Watson will be publishing that very soon.

The role of a Union official has changed over the years. We are requiring members who are able to read, listen and think critically. Thinking about the downstream effects and benefits. We need you to be able to communicate broadly and build relationships, i.e. with management, other officials and firefighters. You need to be reasoned, evidence based and most of all be willing.

There is a time commitment, especially in the bigger Locals and those with some frustratingly average managers. But you can help us lead and influence the organisation, it’s managers and our members. This is an exciting time to be a Union official and we would love to have you on board.

From this year there will be a slight change to the ballot system/wording. By signing the nomination form, you will be agreeing to the newly signed and accepted charter. Every Local has agreed to this being the way we will interact and behave amongst ourselves, our members and towards management. Local elections will be paper ballots this year apart from the Wellington Local who is trialling electronic voting.

You can find the role descriptions/duties/powers and entitlements document here and we are also considering increasing the honoraria paid to officials. These will be updated and advised ASAP.

We have been fortunate enough to have been invited to send officials to the IAFF Biennial Redmond/EMS Conference. This is the largest health, safety and EMS conference and It will take place this year from August 18 – 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Conference theme is emerging threat, evolving opportunities and innovative solutions. The committee has resolved to send myself and Secretary Watson.

It will be great to welcome back Alex Forrest from Winnipeg to follow up on our presumptive legislation campaign. We are continuing to visit politicians and Alex and Wattie are key to our success.

Regarding the IFE dispute, the agreed mediator/arbitrator has all the information and paper/documents filed previously and we are awaiting a date and time to meet with him and FENZ to progress. We will keep you all informed as to the progress.

As always, stay safe

Ian Wright
President
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

Duties/Powers/Entitlement of Local Officials

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