FENZ repeats sham of COVID-19 risk assessments

The NZPFU advises Health and Safety Reps and other members that FENZ has underhandedly attempted to push through risk assessments on firefighter roles so that FENZ can require the firefighters to be vaccinated should the Government lift the current vaccination mandate.

Weeks ago with the pending Government announcement lifting restrictions and some mandates, and after the Public Service Commission required vaccination policy reviews, the NZPFU sought a review of the FENZ imposed policy with urgency.  FENZ has refused to review the policy and instead is insisting on undertaking another risk assessment on roles covered.  It is important the policy is reviewed first so that the principles align with the Government’s removal of restrictions.  The removal of most mandates including in education, the high vaccination rates within FENZ staff and the merging of both vaccinated and unvaccinated in public venues mean the circumstances have changed significantly and the policy must be reconsidered in that light.

FENZ’s initial risk assessment process was a sham and the current process to re-assess the positions covered by the FENZ policy is just as dishonest.  

Yesterday the NZPFU and other partner agencies met with FENZ supposedly to determine the appropriate questions and matrix for the assessment of the positions currently covered by the FENZ policy.  But FENZ had already determined the framework and had been using it with feedback due from many work groups at lunch time today.  Transitioning CEO Kerry Gregory and acting National Commander Brendan Nally showed no shame when the sham was exposed and provided no explanation for the dishonest approach.

In addition, without any discussion or consultation with the NZPFU, FENZ had sent the assessment matrix to health and safety reps to determine the risk assessment for firefighters in preparation of the Government lifting the health mandate.  FENZ’s dishonest and underhanded actions lead us to believe they are deliberately skewing the process in order to continue to require firefighters to be vaccinated when the mandate is lifted.   This is despite previous claims by Kerry Gregory that FENZ would follow the Government approach.

Yesterday’s discussion on the risk assessment framework FENZ was using (without consultation, discussion or notification) failed to include the most important factor – that the issue is whether the risk is greater in the workplace and that for the individual in the community.  In addition, FENZ had sent out additional information that was not relevant to the assessment.

We have informed FENZ that we do not accept any assessments of the positions currently covered under the policy without the key consideration being the comparison of risk in the community and the individual’s non-work life. 

We do not agree that firefighters roles should be assessed in preparation of the mandate being lifted – if the mandate is lifted and the Government has determined there is no need for requirement to be vaccinated then there is no such need.   Other occupations including teachers have returned to work unvaccinated and they work with a high level of unvaccinated children.  In FENZ more than 95% of firefighters are vaccinated and there are high vaccination rates across all non-operational roles. 

We advise any member who has inadvertently been part of the sham by completing a risk assessment for any role in the past 2 weeks to notify FENZ that they withdraw the risk assessment on the basis they were not provided with the correct information and were wrongly informed that the union had been consulted.  It is important that those risk assessments are not taken into account as the key premise of comparison with the risk within the community has not been considered.

If any member has completed the assessment and would like to discus or have further assistance, please contact me directly on 021 928 819.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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