Professional Career Firefighters disadvantaged by consultation timelines and FENZ processes

The NZPFU has been seeking an extension of consultation timeframes for professional career firefighters since the consultation proposal was released.

The consultation period of 18 September to 16 October is of significant disadvantage to professional career firefighters due to rostered leave blocks. Blue, Brown, Green and Red watches are all affected by scheduled leave that is built into the roster system and beyond the control of the firefighters. Some will have as little as 2 day shifts and three night shifts during the consultation period where they are expected to be able to access FENZ consultation documentation and respond in the midst of responding to the community.

Despite repeated requests, FENZ has refused to recognise or address this disadvantage.

FENZ chants the mantra of inclusiveness yet will not act to give professional career firefighters the same opportunities to consider and response to the proposals. It would be of great value for FENZ to hear from those who undertake more than 80% of all response. Clearly FENZ do not see it that way.

Is that because they are so dismissive of the impact and views of professional career firefighters? Or is it because they do not want to have to consider the factual, evidence-based response that professional career firefighters would be able to provide?

The FENZ mantra of inclusiveness rings hollow for professional career firefighters:

  • FENZ has its blinkers on when it comes to professional career firefighters and our safe systems of work. It is willing to dismantle the very fabric of sound response systems so that it can turf professional career firefighters from their current positions to make way for those that cannot meet the current rank and command qualification and experience standards. The safety of the public and firefighters are in peril with this proposal.
  • For those that have attended information sessions they have had to listen to FENZ attempting to justify the proposal which allows for the appointment of non-qualified, inexperienced and untrained personnel in positions that are currently held by professional career firefighters.
  • Where is the inclusiveness when those that entered the fire service with the establishment of FENZ (and some were contractors or fixed term employees who are now classified as permanent employees) are given preference over those who have been in these positions for many years and have served for at least 10 years, some for decades?
  • Why does the 2-year employment of Rural personnel take preference over professional career firefighters who have been successfully fulfilling those roles for more than two years? FENZ claim their hands are tied by employment law but it is FENZ who has decided to disestablish the positions and remove the current requirements of qualifications, training and experience. The NZPFU representatives have repeatedly discussed with FENZ other options that enables the integration of Rural personnel while maintaining the rank and command structures that are critical to safe systems of response. Those options did not make the proposal because those options do not fit with the ideology of lateral entry of unqualified, trained or experienced civilians into command roles.
  • For some time FENZ has been offering those currently working as DPRFOs and PRFOs assistance to develop their resumes and hone their skills in preparation of the pending appointment processes. Other “affected” personnel have not been offered the same assistance. How inclusive is that?

The bias against professional career firefighting qualifications and experience has been laid bare in the proposal which is designed to enable FENZ to insert non-qualified, trained or experienced personnel into positions that manage the heart and purpose of the response to the community. The proposal is a mechanism for FENZ to avoid the encumbrances qualifications and experience so that they can civilianise the fire service from the top down. They have already achieved that through lateral entry at national and regional levels.

Despite the rhetoric there are no protections in the document that protect firefighters’ safe systems of work or prevent non-qualified, skilled or experienced personnel being in command of incidents. Incident controllers will be employed without having to meet any competency assessment criteria and there is no intention for them to ever have to meet independently assessed qualifications, training or experience.

That is not inclusiveness – that is a strategy to impose an ideology of civilianisation.

Despite the mantra, the actions of FENZ’s leaders and this proposal undermine the professionalism of firefighting – that is divisive not inclusive.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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