Covid-19 UPDATE

All FENZ personnel covered by the mandatory health order must have at least the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination before 29 November 2021 and second dose by 14 January 2022 to continue working in their roles.

To date there are approximately 100 declared affected members declared unvaccinated.  Approximately another 80 members yet to declare their vaccination status.  It is likely a large number of the undeclared will be on leave.

FENZ is required to consult with affected unvaccinated staff to genuinely discuss and consider any alternative options including available duties.  National Commander Kerry Gregory confirmed the following last night:

“Given this, our intention is to commence consultation with employees who intend to remain unvaccinated (at least at this stage) in relation to whether there are any alternative work arrangements, redeployment options, or other options such as a Covid leave (without pay) that we may be able to agree.   This consultation will occur on an individual basis and we expect this will be able to be completed within the two-week extension period when the Health Order comes into effect. At this time unvaccinated employees covered by the Health order will no longer be able to perform their work.”

Managers are starting to organise individual consultation meetings with those at work (not on leave). We advise members to inform their manager they will be seeking union advice and want a union representative at that meeting. For those on leave you are entitled to continue your leave uninterrupted.  If you are contacted by your manager please refer them to your union representative.

The NZPFU has been preparing for this process.  

  • We have a list of dedicated representatives that will advocate for affected members.  See https://www.nzpfu.org.nz/news/covid-19-update-10-11/ for the process for notifying your representative that you will need support.
  • We have provided a questionnaire for affected members to fill out to assist with gathering the appropriate information prior to those consultation meetings.
  • We are also supporting those representatives through the process.
  • We have informed FENZ that some of those representatives will be at the NZPFU annual conference next week and therefore will not be available for consultation meetings on the 22, 23 and 24 November.

The NZPFU is pushing FENZ to include our representative and subject matter experts in the planning and preparation  for a drop in career and volunteer firefighters from the 29th November 2021.  FENZ relies heavily on career firefighters undertaking overtime in order to maintain current response levels and standards.  That pressure will increase even if only a small percentage of firefighters are unable to work post the 29th November 2021. 

FENZ and New Zealand cannot afford the termination of employment of any career firefighters.  The current estimate of 100 lost would be crippling.  It would take years to recruit to replace firefighters but the operational knowledge and experience will take decades to rebuild.

FENZ’s successful response to the challenges of Covid-19 from March 2020 is largely due to the involvement of our representatives and SMEs and the union’s push for preparation to commence from mid-March 2020.  FENZ will fail if it continues to plan without our experienced representatives having vital input.

It is the NZPFU view that part of that planning needs to include consideration that some stations will only be able to continue with emergency response so there is fertile ground for offering unvaccinated firefighters appropriate work and tasks that do not fall under the mandatory vaccination order.  FENZ also needs to prepare for the increased community transmission of Covid-19 and firefighters testing positive.  That will add pressure to the capacity and capability of emergency response and again other non-response tasks could be allocated as alternative duties for the unvaccinated.  That would relieve the pressure on those that are responding and preserve the capacity and capability for post Covid-19 times.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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