The NZPFU National Committee and relevant FENZ representatives met over two days this week to implement the new provisions and processes agreed in the new 2021-2024 FENZ NZPFU collective employment agreement.
1. LIVE FIRE TRAINERS AND FIRE INVESTIGATORS ELIGIBLE FOR BLOOD TESTING PROVISIONS
FENZ and the NZPFU HAVE agreed that trainers (who have been or are exposed to live fire training through their training role) and fire investigators (who have undertaken fire investigation as part of their former FRMO or do undertake fire investigation as part of their current CRR and RR role) are also eligible for the annual baseline health checks/blood screening.
The collective agreement settlement included a $250 per annum plus GST (or $500 plus GST bi-annually) reimbursement for Part 2 NZPFU members (Firefighters and Officers) for baseline health check and/or blood screening for the early detection of occupational illnesses including occupational cancer. The purpose of the screening programme is to establish a baseline of health indicators so that ongoing annual (or bi-annual) checks can be measured against that baseline to identify any change. Firefighter cancer can be particularly aggressive, and results that may only require a “watch and wait” approach for the general population is not appropriate for firefighters. With this comparison and ongoing checks the changes will be more easily identified. Similar programmes have been in place in Canada for more than a decade and have demonstrated firefighters being diagnosed with illness at the early stages of change in the primary indicators and subsequently have been able to access treatment for the best chance of recovery and return to work. The FENZ NZPFU programme has been based on the current programme only available to Christchurch firefighters which was developed by the MENZ clinic in conjunction with NZPFU representatives. It too has already resulted in diagnosis of NZPFU members who would not have otherwise had the same checks due to their age and fitness.
There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating firefighters’ occupational cancers due to the exposure to carcinogens at structure fires. This exposure occurs during training, responding and during post fire dampening and investigation. The risk to all of three of these groups of workers has been recognised in other programmes, and presumptive legislation in other jurisdictions which is applied to those who are exposed to the toxins of the fireground through their employment.
NZPFU members have been able to access a similar programme in Christchurch only. That programme was a result of a joint approach between NZPFU reps and the MENZ clinic. The NZPFU has been in discussions with the MENZ Clinic to assist putting together an information kit for members to understand the scheme and appropriate documentation for the member to provide their GPs and testing providers. The NZPFU and FENZ will also be working towards streamlining that process and will be working together to ensure recruits are able to access the screening during their recruit course.
See paragraph 31 of the attached Terms of Settlement that sets out the blood screening programme.
We advise members not to have the blood screening programme unless or until they have income protection insurance.
2. INCOME PROTECTION/LIFE INSURANCE
The NZPFU national committee is undertaking due diligence to ensure we provide the most comprehensive income protection policy available with sound claims processes supported by high claims acceptance data. A number of providers are putting together policies for our consideration. As the agreement is for reimbursement of up to $50 per week the NZPFU will be the group policy holder. The NZPFU’s due diligence in considering a few providers will also provide evidence needed for the ongoing discussions between the parties exploring whether FENZ will provide group cover.
At the CEA implementation meeting this week we also discussed with FENZ the most effective and efficient ways for the payment of premiums and the evidence required by FENZ for the reimbursement. Work is underway to draft appropriate authorisation and deduction forms in preparation of the NZPFU selecting a group scheme. Once we have confirmed a scheme the full information of the policy, eligibility and claims processes will be sent out to members for their consideration with the necessary forms to sign up and authorise payment of premiums. We are working on being able to offer income protection in February 2023.
If members already have income protection and/or life insurance they will be able to access the reimbursement for those schemes provided the necessary supporting evidence is provided to FENZ.
See paragraph 19 of the attached Terms of Settlement for the income protection/life insurance provision.
3. WORKING PARTIES – RED FLEET, EQUIPMENT (BOOTS AND HELMETS) AND STAFFING
The parties agreed to the practicable operation of these working parties including numbers of representatives and the appointment of an Independent Working Groups Coordinator. Both parties are keen to make sure we get the terms of reference and organisation of the working parties underway so that the very important work is underway and making progress.
The agreement for these working parties was integral to the settlement as it ensures NZPFU/FENZ have a structured approach to addressing the dire fleet situation through developing the red fleet strategy (including the number and type of fire and specialist appliances, location and staffing), reviewing the current boots and helmets, and to address the insufficient firefighters and communications centre staffing.
See paragraph 48 of the attached terms of reference that set out the process and scope of the working parties.
4. PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT AND SUPERVISION PILOT
The parties are working on an information kit and FAQs to be provided to members eligible to engage with the pilot. The pilot will initially be extended to firefighter and communications centre members from the stations and workplaces listed in paragraph 44 of the attached record of settlement.
5. LONG NOTICE RETIREMENT BENEFIT
The parties are working on an information kit and FAQs on the Long Notice Retirement Benefit that is available for members covered by the collective agreement. See paragraph 47 of the attached Record of Settlement for the detail of being able to potentially enhance retirement savings for employees approaching retirement by giving 18-36 months’ notice of retirement.
6. PAYMENT OF WAGE INCREASES
FENZ have confirmed they are undertaking the necessary payroll system trials to the payment of the increased rates. The consultants that assisted with the calculations etc in the bargaining (Grant Thornton) have also provided resources to support FENZ to assist meeting the dates for the payments. Paragraphs 1-9 of the attached Terms of Settlement set out the pay increases. Also attached is a copy of the signed collective agreement and the Part 5 tables.
- New pay rates to be paid from the 8 March 2023 pay run. This will be the paid at the new pay rates to apply from 1 July 2022.
- Backpay is expected to be paid late April or no later than the beginning of May 2023.
- New pay rates for the increases negotiated to apply from I July 2023 are expected to be paid in the first pay run of July 2023.