The NZPFU cannot support the introduction of a code of conduct and behaviour when FENZ fails to live by its values.

For some months NZPFU representatives have been working diligently on our member’s behalf on the development of a code of behaviour that was to apply to everyone – including FENZ representatives.  We welcomed the opportunity to meet with the Behaviour and Conduct Office to build a relationship based on respect and fairness.  We did so in good faith and with a cautious approach as we are always wary of the application of standards being one-sided, or used as a pathway to disciplinary action rather than building a fair and friendly workplace.  We have always been very conscious that conduct and behaviours allegations can be significantly more devastating for NZPFU members as they can be misused and result in an employee losing their career and income.

The resulting code of behaviour is due to be launched with videos of support and the NZPFU was asked to participate.  We have told FENZ we can’t support a code that its own representative’s don’t adhere to.

The Code of Behaviour/Tikanga Whanonga builds on FENZ’s published values of “we do the right thing”.  But in recent times we have seen numerous examples of where FENZ has not applied those principles to the organisation itself.

  • One of the more obvious recent examples in the manner and content of the FENZ restructure proposal.  In particular, the harsh manner in which it issued more than 100 employees letters stating they are notices of redundancies and wrongly claiming an early application for positions not even finalised would stand the employee a better chance of redeployment. FENZ’s actions were a source of great stress and unnecessary harm for a group of its employees who are most affected by the proposals.
  • Another recent example was a recent video posting on social media to promote a FENZ Behaviour and Conduct Office survey which implied professional career firefighters and others that work for FENZ are motivated by money, that the accolade of most trusted organisation was purely down to the service of volunteers, and that it is the volunteers that are the backbone of FENZ.  The NZPFU raised this denigration of professional career firefighters and other FENZ employees with FENZ.  The response to date being it was not an approved communication, the individual was only trying to drum up support for the survey, and did not intend to cause harm or disrespect.  There will be a meeting to discuss this matter further, but the initial response indicates that FENZ does not accept the seriousness of having a person in the Behaviour and Conduct Office tone-deaf to their derogatory and denigrating comments is to have personnel in the Behaviour and Conduct Office inherently biased against employees in the organisation. 

We cannot support a Code in circumstances where FENZ does not accept the seriousness of behaviours of some of its own representatives.

The NZPFU supports fair and friendly workplaces and personal accountability for our behaviours.  The National President’s blogs regularly include commentary and supporting our members to embrace respect and understanding.  At the past two National Conferences we have had facilitated workshops developing awareness and leadership skills.

In 2019 the NZPFU successfully lobbied FENZ to pilot a programme of professional career crew conversations as an opportunity for crews to discuss how they treat one another and how they can build a friendly fear-free workplace.  We wanted to ensure that crews could continue to look after themselves and each other with humour and good-natured banter by discussing as a crew what was acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.  The details of the Crew Conversations programme was detailed in an earlier NZPFU notice.  We appreciate the assistance of Rachael Utumapu, the National Advisor Women’s Development, who has coordinated the Crew Conversations with the facilitator, and her support was pivotal in FENZ’s acceptance of the pilot.

The Crew Conversations pilot got underway earlier this year at Paraparaumu and Gisborne Stations.  The facilitated Crew Conversations are held with the usual crew where possible including the SSO.  It is a chance to get together with a trained facilitator to talk about the issues that affect their crew and to agree on processes for the raising and resolving contentious issues.  Unfortunately the Covid-19 lockdown interrupted the programme but this was taken as an opportunity for the facilitator to hold a follow-up session with those crews by video-conference. 

Crews have been supportive of the experience and some have reported it was the first time they felt recognised as needing support as professional career firefighters.  For some it was a chance to get a few issues off their chest, for others it has helped in talking more about their working relationships.  All want to see the experience built upon and not end up being the one chance to have professional-career firefighter supported by a relevant programme within their own group.

All participants have been asked to provide feedback and evaluation which will be considered by FENZ in determining whether to fund a roll out of the Crew Conversations programme to all professional career firefighter crews. 

This week Crew Conversations are being held in Taupo and next week at Takapuna. We look forward to the feedback from these members. 

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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