Decades of neglect towards career firefighter staffing levels are hitting crisis point throughout Auckland Fire Stations this summer as career fire stations are closed and fire trucks respond to emergencies short staffed due to a shortage of staffing.
Prior to the Christmas holidays the Union warned Fire and Emergency that staffing levels were at critical levels from deferred, cancelled and interrupted leaves, as a result of Covid. The Union asked for contingencies to be put in place that allowed temporary relaxation on restrictions of staff to work whilst on leave, or the surging of staffing from outside of Auckland to cover temporary vacancies.
Unfortunately, FENZ has not agreed to a relaxation of restrictions or to surge in personnel from outside of Auckland, and, in fact, it seems that the Regional Manager has been happy to allow fire trucks to respond short crewed, or even for fire stations to close (as happened to the career fire appliances at Titirangi on Friday 7 January, and at Birkenhead on Saturday 8 January), and rely on Volunteer fire crews instead.
The Union believes this decision is based solely on cost, and nothing to do with maintaining safe systems of work or the safety of communities. We find it abhorrent that FENZ would call on Volunteer fire crews to interrupt their well-deserved summer holidays to respond to emergencies that would otherwise have been looked after by career firefighters.
Fire and Emergency is taking advantage of the goodwill of its Volunteer work force and their families, the communities that they serve, by refusing to look at all possible options to cover any vacancies using its career firefighting force. With career firefighting recruit courses still several months away, the prognosis for Auckland communities looks bleak.
The Union believes that FENZ needs to urgently address both its current staffing levels in Auckland and indeed through the whole country. Additionally, they must immediately work with the Union to establish and agree upon a vacancy fulfilment policy that will help to address the staffing numbers until such time as more recruit courses can be run and more career firefighters employed.
The Union reminds Officers and Firefighters riding in charge, to call for additional resourcing to an emergency incident if they find themselves short staffed or responding into an area where a station has been closed down due to a lack of staffing.
We will continue to petition FENZ to try to get them to reconsider their stance on leave restrictions and staff surging. In the meantime, we urge all members to take care of yourselves, your other crew members, and your communities, the best you can in these appalling circumstances.