President's Blog: Heads up 9

One of my most disliked phrases, and we’ve all used it, as a descriptor of ourselves and others in this job is “just a firefighter”. Maybe it’s our humble kiwi nature, maybe it’s a tall poppy thing, but we are not “just” firefighters. We are Career Professional Firefighters and we need to start thinking of ourselves as that. We should be proud to be a Professional Firefighter, we are after all, the most trusted workers in the country. And in an organisation with over 12000 operational personnel it is our professionalism that sets us apart, the entry tests - both physical and mental, the initial interview process, but also the ongoing training and development - the courses, the exams, the assessments, which are continuous and must be maintained, this is a point of difference to our volunteer colleagues.

Throughout this period of consultation and integration It has become apparent to me (and others I’m sure) that there are people within this organisation who do not value Career Professional Firefighters. We are seen as simply structural firefighters and not personnel with wide ranging skills and experience across a variety of emergency incidents, and it should also be noted that the diversity of these calls is increasing over time and also under our new Act.Despite this, our voice is continually minimised both at working group level and also within the latest round of appointments in Service Delivery leadership team where we now have people with NO experience in daily risk reduction activities and planning, or knowledge on what keeps us and the public safe leading this work.

It has become apparent to me through this integration process that we need to be the guardians of, the promoters and maintainers of the professionalism required in and for this job

We need to believe in ourselves.

There has been a bit of questioning about our meeting and joint statement with FECA over the last week. FECA and the NZPFU have some key shared interests at present, particularly through this time of significant organisational change which is why we have formalised our relationship on some specific issues.While it is important to acknowledge that the interests of our members will not always comfortably align, at the beginning we ALL embarked on our careers as career firefighters, and it is with this shared history, the safety of present and future firefighters and of course the best possible outcomes for the public that we have strengthened this relationship.Yes, there are current disputes and tensions outside on that relationship and please know that integrity will always be maintained and the NZPFU will always advocate and support its members first and foremost in these situations.

Last Friday, saw the final working day for Past Secretary Derek Best, we managed to catch up for a few quiet drinks after work and we bid him farewell more formally last Tuesday with some old friends, life members and members.I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the work Derek as done for the NZPFU, we owe him much and we wish him the very best in his retirement.

The Comcens are having their first National Engagement forum on July 30th. This mimics the Area and Regional Engagement forums that all Locals and Branch’s should be having on a regular basis. A place to build relationships, understanding, discuss upcoming issues, trends, threats and solutions. Along with management, three Union Reps and one other from each Comcen will be attending this forum as well as Secretary Wattie Watson and Vice President Joe Stanley. Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend as my SSO exam is on the same day!

We are also in the process of developing stronger structures and reporting lines for our union members currently engaged in training.Training is a critical in terms of maintaining standards and developing our people, it is vital that this arm of our membership is supported.Please note that Greg Lee is the Firefighter programme rep, Norm Gilroy is the Officer programme rep and James Hall is going to be the full time trainer’s rep throughout the country. We looking to appoint one person from each region to be the single point of contact for James on trainer issues. Warwick LeQuense and Danny Beban are the NTC reps.We are also asking trainers to register and use the secure online forum under the trainers heading to raise issues and participate in discussions. In terms of training facilities and resources, we are excited about the new live fire facilities officially up and running, and we are working to ensure safe number of trainers are available and trained to operate them.We are also advocating for a Senior Trainer role outside of NTC, giving our Regional Trainers better career opportunities. We continue to advocate for separate accommodation to be provided for trainers, away from trainees. We also need a Regional Trainer rep from each Region to be a point of contact for James Hall. Please email myself or James direct.

We are increasingly frustrated at the actions and positions held by serving NZ Police officers, wearing our Uniform and wearing our rank. Despite assurances from CEO Rhys Jones, when we delve down further, as Vice President Joe Stanley has, it is apparent that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and these secondment decisions show a real lack of respect for rank both inside and outside of FENZ. As Joe so succinctly comments, “we should be accepting of people from other agencies wearing their own uniform in a Positive Workplace, and that any suggestion that they will be treated differently because they are a Police Officer in Police Uniform is an affront to all of the work we've done in evolving our culture. Making them wear our uniform is akin to 'colonisation'.” They are after all, experts in their field, as such they should be wearing their Uniform, their rank, not ours. We are continuing to put pressure on these poor decisions around the country, but in the meantime, we are asking members to restrict their contact with these people, especially in Christchurch until the Local officials have met the police officer and received an apology for comments they have made in respect of Career Professional Firefighters.

We have had some great responses to this year’s Local elections. We are excited that there are more contested elections than ever! Unfortunately, the proposed Electronic Wellington Local election was not required this year due to only receiving the minimum amount required to fill the vacancies! Murphy’s law!. I will be proposing at our annual conference in November in Invercargill, that next year’s Branch elections be trialled electronically across the country.

The Auckland Governance Group met on Thursday to go through a range of draft options that have been developed to help with some of the unique challenges that face a large proportion of our membership base. The Governance Group was wholly supportive of all of the draft options provided by the Auckland Task Force Working Group and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Terry Bird, Brendan Pascoe, Josh Burton, Tim-Bob Julian and particularly Jamie Whitehead for all the time spent on this important work.There is no doubt that their commitment to this work through all the meetings, updates and ongoing engagement with members and management has come at a cost.Thank you for your efforts, I look forward to seeing this work making a tangible difference for our members.

The tee shirt competition was great, we received quite a few entries and we have settled on one design. The notice is out and we are extremely proud and excited by the design, it’s intent and as the future of our strong Union. It is planned to get every member, and Life member one tee shirt, there will be enticements to send us your size, colour choice and your personal email and cell number! We have tried to gather this information numerous times!

We are currently going through a negotiation with management around this years REM review process. We are, I think getting to the stage of changing our process once this term has finished. We have started positive discussion around medical call recognition and support. We are still discussing the IFE dispute and potential resolution. We will keep you updated when we have anything more solid to present to you.

One thing that frustrates me as a Career Professional Firefighter and Union President are the press releases or news articles that do not acknowledge the role of Career Professional Firefighters have in protecting the safety of the public across the vast range emergencies that we respond to on a daily basis. We need to be more vigilant and proactive in our statements to the press and media, promoting the incredibly important and valuable work and services provided. Look around the country, in smaller volunteer areas, press releases always talk about the Volunteer firefighters and I have yet to see any press releases in my career that specifically mentions Career Professional Firefighters. I want this to change. I am writing to the Deputy Chief Executive, CEO’s office who is responsible for the media department in NHQ to rectify this for National releases.

Can I please ask that members who are in front of the cameras, on the end of the phone with reporters to be proud that Career Professional Firefighters responded and to tell our story.

Stay safe

Ian Wright
President
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

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