Proposed FENZ restructure will have dire consequences for the safety of the public and firefighters if it proceeds

Professional Career Firefighters could be under the command of non-qualified Chiefs who do not have any qualifications or training

Non-qualified or trained personnel in non-ranked positions can be deemed to be competent to respond

Today at midday FENZ released its proposed organisational restructure which plans to decimate the current rank and role structures in order to put non-career firefighters at the helm of operations. If this proposal goes ahead it will herald an era of the disestablishment of a professional career fire and emergency service resulting in dire consequences for your health and safety and the safety of the public.

Members are asked to read the “Building Fire and Emergency New Zealand – proposals for our organisational structure and approach to rank” carefully and not to take the assurances in the document at face value.

This is a proposal that will eliminate safe systems of work so that non-qualified and non-experienced personnel can be deemed to be “suitably qualified and trained”.

  • The proposal and proposed job descriptions will allow for the appointment personnel into District Manager/Chief Officer (currently Area Manager) and Group Manager/Deputy Chief (currently Assistant Area Manager) ranks without any qualification or independently assessed training, or the current required experience and qualifications of the current rank and command structures to take command and control incidents. There is not even any minimum years of experience criteria.
  • FENZ intends to develop a new competency assessment framework AFTER it has appointed to these critical positions. An unnamed panel will determine who is “suitable”.
  • FENZ is ignoring the current critical rank and command structures that are your safe systems of work and has no intention of the new “competency assessment framework” to include the current professional career firefighter rank and qualification protections. If it was intending to do so there would be no need for a new framework.
  • The new Fire Chiefs and District Fire Chiefs that will be managing you and your station, and taking command at incidents do not even have to have been on a Senior Officer response roster ever before and do not have to meet any years of service (which are years of experience) requirements that currently underpin the career rank and promotional requirements.
  • The proposal allows for unqualified and untrained Chief Officers to deem other unqualified and untrained personnel suitable to hold rank (prior to the development of any proposed competency framework) to respond. This proposal opens it up for FENZ to have personnel in non-ranked positions grabbing a turn-out coat and responding.

This is the 1990s and CST ideology under a new guise!

Here are just a few examples:

FENZ PROPOSAL FURTHER DETAIL IN THE PROPOSAL OUTCOME
“Notably we are not proposing any changes to to how our stations and brigades operate.“ 

Kerry Gregory to NZPFU IN 8 August 2019 letter: 

“ I would like to be clear that we are not proposing any changes to rank at Senior Station Officer level and below at this time”

Rhys Jones to NZPFU in 26 August 2019 letter: 
“Any future proposals to change or align rank structures for those positions would be consulted on at the appropriate time in line with unions and associations and in line with any  provisions contained within Collective Employment Agreements.”

  • Proposal to change district boundaries
  • Disestablishment of Area Managers and Assistant Area Manager Positions
  • Create new District Manager and Group Manager positions claiming they are “changed significantly” from AM and AAM roles
  • Rank will only apply to “fire and emergency response situations”
Stations and Brigades currently operate under the current rank and command structures and area management. The proposal changes the those structures and claims to change management positions.

The changes undermines the current rank and role structures.

The Proposals would enable FENZ to appoint District Manager (Chief Officer) and Group Manager (Deputy Chief Officer) who are not professional career firefighters and do not have the assessed qualifications and experience as required by the current rank and command structures and embedded in your safe systems of work.

“And we are absolutely committed to the principle of the most suitably qualified or trained person being in charge of incidents”
“We proposed developing a competency framework” “It is not expected or planned that the new competency framework would have been developed and implemented prior to any recruitment process for the new positions if the proposed structures in this document went ahead.”

“We propose the following process would apply to assess fire and emergency response in the interim” – that is for the new District and Group Manager positions…

“..demonstrate relevant previous experience would be deemed to meet the fire and emergency response requirements of the position…

“If Fire and Emergency personnel do not have the demonstrated relevant previous experience… they may apply for recognition of prior learning by providing a written submission to show they have demonstrated the equivalent experience, including any qualifications”. 

The current rank and command structures are your safe systems of work. The proposal would enable FENZ to appoint to District Manager/Chief Officer and Group Manager/Deputy Chief Officer personnel who have not undertaken or completed any examinations, promotional courses, never held a career rank and not have any independently assessed experience to manage professional career firefighters, or meet any minimum experience criteria, to hold rank and command an incident.

FENZ already has an assessed qualification and competency framework which you must achieve for your rank. It is founded in the rank structures set out in our collective agreement and the command and control structures.

“Where a new position within the organisation would require an individual to lead fire and emergency response incidents, the position description would set out the accountabilities and responsibilities of the associated position and it is the rank that would reflect a person’s required fire and emergency competency”

“To ensure we maintain fire and emergency response capabilities at the right level, the proposed new positions of District Manager and Group Manager would require fire and emergency response competency and therefore these would be ranked positions.”

Proposed pre-requiste requirements to hold rank at District Manager/Chief Officer:

  • Either demonstrated recent fire and emergency response experience for a period of two consecutive years in a Region, District and/or Area leadership position, eg, incident management role at incidents as part of being on a Senior Officer response roster 
  • Or evidence of successfully leading incidents that involved a level of complexity in terms of size, resources, risk or consequence where:
    • You represented Fire and Emergency NZ and led the engagement with officials, stakeholders, public and media, including political engagement.

Proposed pre-requiste requirements to hold rank at Group Manager/Deputy Chief Officer:

  • Either relevant recent fire and emergency response experience for a period of two consecutive years in a Region, District and/or Area leadership position, ie, being on a Senior Officer response roster
  • Or evidence of successfully leading incidents that involved a level of complexity in terms of size, resources, risk or consequence where:
    • You represented Fire and Emergency NZ and led the engagement with officials, stakeholders, public and media, including political engagement
    • You had significant tactical and strategic response planning accountabilities.
Current career Area Managers and Assistant Area Manager have successfully undertaken all rank and promotional qualifications and service/experience. This is a minimum of 10 years and assessed qualifications including the Senior Station Officer course.

The District Manage/Chief Officer job description provides for the appointment of non-qualified or experienced incident controllers.

The proposed Chief Officer and Deputy Chief Officer positions do not differentiate between those that have qualifications and experience across all response.

The job descriptions do not differentiate between types of experiences so would allow for someone how has no independently assessed qualifications of experience in urban structure firefighting to take command and control of all incidents, including structure fires in highly urbanised areas.

This could result in dire consequences for the firefighters under their command and the outcome of the public.

“We will continue to ensure we have sufficient experience and capability within fire and emergency response rosters to be able to accommodate all incident types”.
“A District Manager or relevant National Manager may determine that additional ranked personnel are required to maintain sufficient fire and emergency response capability. In this instance individuals appointed to a new non-ranked position may continue to hold a rank if they have been assessed as having the required competency and agree to maintain the skills required for the appropriate rank…to ensure on-call staffing levels for rosters are sufficient…where required for surge capacity” Non-operational personnel can be declared by a District Manager (who will not have to have any qualifications or experience consistent with the current rank and command structures) can deem civilians (who also do not have the qualifications or experience consistent with the current rank and command structures) on a non-existant competency assessment framework that they can respond to emergency incidents.

We want each and every member to provide a response to this proposal to the NZPFU and we will include member’s submissions with the Union submission. We will provide a template and the process for providing your submissions to the NZPFU over the next few days.

We will take every action open to us to maintain your health and safety, and the safe and effective response for the community. We will keep members informed of developments.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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