As members will know, staffing levels throughout Tamaki Makaurau are at critically low levels with fire trucks often short staffed or unavailable for response and 111 Fire Communication Centres under-staffed. Until such time as a Vacancy Fulfilment Policy has been agreed upon with FENZ, our safe systems of work are completely reliant on the application of the Critical Worker Exemption Scheme.
The Critical Worker Close Contact Exemption Scheme applies to approved organisations and businesses providing critical services, and provides that where the staff are vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts of a Covid-19 case, the asymptomatic worker can return to work provided they return a negative RAT prior to each day/shift during the isolation period. Fire and Emergency has been provided by the Ministry of Health free RAT kits, which are available through contacting the on-call Group Manager.
The NZPFU has notified FENZ of the Union’s following principles:
- Where a worker is asymptomatic but required by Government or FENZ to isolate, the worker should be on paid special leave as the required absence is beyond their control.
- Where any worker becomes symptomatic, the usual sick leave provisions apply.
- Where the Close Contact Exemption Scheme applies, the asymptomatic worker must still have an option to isolate if reasonable grounds to do so. The type of leave (including paid special leave or other leave) will be dependent on their personal circumstances and reasons for seeking to isolate.
In order to maintain safe systems of work and minimum levels of safe staffing, the Local strongly encourages staff that unless there are extenuating circumstances, to take up the Critical Worker Exemption and continue to return to work using one of the available RAT kits provided through your Group Manager.
Participation in this scheme only clears you to attend work for FENZ; outside of your shifts you are still required to follow the MOH guidelines for household close contacts.
It is critical to the success of the Scheme, and in order to help maintain safe staffing levels, that you strictly follow the below guidance:
Daily symptom check and daily RAT testing is required before entering FENZ property i.e., you must do this before heading to work, if personnel would otherwise be in a period of self-isolation. Test results must be recorded on your My Covid Record. (https://mycovidrecord.health.nz/)
Notify your Officer in Charge each shift that you are a close contact and have had a negative RAT test.
Strict use of a medical mask or N95 particulate respirator, put on before entry to FENZ property, changed as needed during the day and
strictly complying with any infection prevention and control protocols at work.
When mask is removed (e.g., for eating and drinking) physical distancing must be maintained, eating alone in a well-ventilated
space, outdoors where possible.
Travel solo, to and from work. (Fire Appliance should limit unnecessary outings)
Ensure good ventilation when in small spaces and surgical masks or N95 particulate respirators must be worn
by everyone present.
This includes non-response purposes.
- If symptoms develop at any stage, follow the Ministry of Health advice for close contacts with symptoms: (https://covid19.govt.nz/testing-and-tracing/contact-tracing/close-contacts/)
- You must self-isolate at home, away from other household members, as per standard close contact advice, including testing if applicable
Please carry out your test approximately 1 hour prior to shift start, allowing for your normal travel to confirm that you can attend if the
test shows a Negative result. Please notify your GM of this result via email or text
If a Positive result is shown, you must advise your Station OIC immediately and have your shift covered, and update your GM.
To report your RAT results please refer to the following methods -
Phone 0800 222 478 or online at MyCovidRecord.Health.NZ (https://mycovidrecord.health.nz/)
Be safe, be careful, be mindful
Responding during the Omicron outbreak will be hugely concerning for many. Masks, hygiene practices, PPE and protocols have worked well to keep firefighters’ safe, but we have to be prepared for and manage Covid-19 positive cases in our ranks and amongst our members. Please be mindful of the stress on everybody and the different concerns our members will have regarding the health and welfare of their families and loved ones.
The application of the Critical Worker Close Contact Exemption Scheme will be challenging for those that have vulnerable family members. Please talk to your Local Station Representative if you have particular concerns, or a situation that may require particular consideration.