The NZPFU continues to take every opportunity to represent Members’ interests in national and legal forums.   

We are maximising the opportunity presented by proposed amendments to the ACC legislation to push for presumptive legislation, the NZPFU case for the payment of overtime/public holiday rates is underway and we are participating in the Coroner’s Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque shootings.

ACC BILL

The fight for presumptive legislation to recognise firefighters’ occupational cancer continues with the NZPFU involvement in a Parliamentary process looking at proposed ACC amendments.

The Accident Compensation (Maternal Birth Injury and Other Matters) Amendment Bill proposes Amendments to section 30 which applies to work-related gradual process, disease or infection cases including firefighters’ occupational cancer claims.   The NZPFU has made submissions on the proposed amendments promoting the urgent need for presumptive legislation to recognise firefighters’ occupational cancer to ensure firefighters are able to access their entitlements as they would for any other occupational injury or illness.   

The Bill has been sent to the Parliament Education and Workforce Committee which the NZPFU has asked to appear before. 

  • The NZPFU submission sets out the case for presumptive legislation including reference to the wealth of accepted and credible research that demonstrates the nexus between firefighting and specific cases, the international experience of presumptive legislation for firefighters’ occupational cancer and how the current system (including the Toxciology Panel considering all firefighter claims) fails firefighters at the time of their greatest need.   Firefighters (with the support of NZPFU representatives and lawyers) are having to spend precious energy and time trying to provide sufficient evidence on their personal careers and exposures (despite much of that evidence not being collected or kept by the fire service) rather than concentrate on their treatment and time with families.  
  • Internationally presumptive legislation has proven to be the only mechanism that ensures firefighter’s occupational cancers are recognised, otherwise each firefighter has to undertake an arduous quasi-legal process to access their entitlements and support.  If the claim is denied, the firefighter still has to pursue a Review and if necessary an Appeal.   The international experience has also demonstrated that presumptive legislation is a catalyst for the fire agency and Government take every reasonable step to monitor key health indicators, minimise exposures and ongoing contamination and provide for appropriate health programmes.  The assistance and mitigation provided by FENZ pales in comparison to the international programmes.  NZ’s professional career firefighters deserve the same care and protections that their international counterparts are provided.

NZPFU’s bargaining claims include the establishment of medical and health programmes for the early detection of cancer, recognition of occupational cancers, income protection insurance and better mitigation of exposures.  FENZ refused those claims including refusing to reference accepted occupational cancer in the agreement.

Hearing Loss

The Bill also proposed changes to the current hearing loss threshold for compensation.  Currently only hearing loss measured at 6% is coverable and the Bill proposed to lower that threshold to 5%. The NZPFU has submitted that occupational hearing loss is common for firefighters as a result of working around pumps, the noise of appliances in station and the noise of appliances while at incidents.   We have submitted any threshold determined at a percentage of hearing loss is not necessary and only serves to decline valid occupational hearing loss claims. 

For more information on the Bill and Select Committee process visit: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_118133/tab/sop

CORONER’S INQUIRY

The NZPFU will be represented at the Coroner’s Inquiry into the deaths of 51 people as a result of the 15 March 2019 Christchurch Masjid attacks.

Professional career firefighters were devastated they were ordered not to respond to assist at the two Mosques under attack.   FENZ ordered all stations nationally into a lockdown and the Christchurch firefighters struggled with the Order to be in lockdown when they could have assisted with medical response and assisting ambulance officers responding and transporting patients to hospital.

The proposed scope of the Inquiry will consider whether the emergency response (or lack of it where FENZ firefighters were concerned) was adequate, appropriate and whether any shortcomings and delays impacted on the outcomes for the victims.  

A hearing on the scope of the Inquiry will be held by video conference 22-24 February 2022.  We have filed submissions on the proposed scope focusing on the following items identified by the Coroner:

  • A public examination of how the relevant first responders, namely the Police, the ambulance service, and Christchurch Hospital responded on 15 March 2019.
  • What caused the delay in the medical response?
  • Who triaged injured and deceased persons and how was this done?
  • Did high activity congestion on the emergency 111 line contribute to early calls from the Linwood Islamic Centre being missed?

We will be involving relevant members and representatives in the development of submissions and evidence for the forthcoming Inquiry once the Coroner has determined the scope of the Inquiry.   For more information on the Coroner’s Inquiry and process visit: https://coronialservices.justice.govt.nz/masjid-attacks-coronial-process/

The NZPFU has been asking FENZ for active shooter and hostile environment policies and procedures for years.  We have even provided FENZ with access to international fire agency’s Active Shooter Hostile Event Response (ASHER) experiences, standards and procedures.  FENZ has stated this issue was a lower priority than other projects including last year’s Tranche 2 appointment processes.

OVERTIME ON PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

In May 2021 the NZPFU filed a case in the Employment Relations Authority on the calculation of the relevant daily pay when a firefighter works overtime on a public holiday.  Currently the firefighters are only paid T1.5 when working overtime on a public holiday – the same is paid when they work overtime any other time that is not a public holiday.  Therefore we say the firefighter is not receiving the statutory public holiday payment in accordance with the Holidays Act 2003.

It is the NZPFU’s view that to comply with the Holidays Act the correct methodology is to first ascertain the relevant daily pay and then multiply that relevant daily pay by T1.5.  In the circumstances where the firefighter is working overtime on a public holiday the relevant daily pay is the amount that the firefighter would have earned (including the overtime) for that day and multiply that total by 1.5 so that both the overtime and the public holiday payment are identifiable and paid.

FENZ says the overtime tables in the back of the collective agreement (which only provides for T1.5 on a public holiday regardless of overtime being worked) stands.

The matter is scheduled to be heard before the Employment Relations Authority on 24 March 2022.

For the previous NZPFU notice visit: https://www.nzpfu.org.nz/news/nzpfu-contests-fenz-public-holiday-payment-calculations/

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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