FENZ has distributed a Covid-19 risk assessment for “consultation” which is a sham.
The NZPFU engaged with FENZ on a Covid-19 risk assessment for the roles undertaken by our members but it became apparent the “consultation” was just a box-ticking exercise. Initially FENZ expected partner agencies national representatives to accept a spreadsheet that had already been populated with risk factors and ranking of the risk factors. We informed FENZ that was not appropriate and had to push hard to get an opportunity for our representatives and SMEs for each work classification to go through the risk factors with FENZ representatives including DCE of the CE Office Raewyn Bleakley and National Commander Kerry Gregory. At the end of that meeting it was agreed those representatives would later be brought back together to apply the controls to the risks. That never happened. Despite FENZ asking for any additional controls, those additional controls were not included either. Instead FENZ again presented an already-populated spreadsheet that demonstrated FENZ’s view that the controls did not alter the risk status at all. When asked, FENZ confirmed they had not applied each control to each risk factor but determined overall there was no change. We were then offered the opportunity to take FENZ’s completed risk assessment back to our SMEs and representatives for comment. We saw little merit in that process as FENZ had already determined the outcome by populating the spreadsheet. This is the same risk assessment now being distributed broadly for “consultation”. It is the NZPFU view that FENZ is going through the motions in order to claim it is acting lawfully. Consultation must be genuine and this is not genuine consultation.
We have notified FENZ we believe the whole process is a sham, and that the risk factors are skewed to get to their desired answer – that every employee and volunteer should be vaccinated. We also informed FENZ the risk analysis was flawed as everyone is potentially exposed to Covid-19 in their personal and work lives. The NZPFU is of the view the risk analysis should be designed to assess the risk to capacity and capability as a result of exposure to Covid-19, not whether anyone will be exposed to the virus.
FENZ has now put out a policy for “consultation”. The NZPFU has not seen the policy before being distributed to everyone. CEO Rhys Jones sent the policy and documents to partner agencies by email two hours before it was distributed to all employees and volunteers via the portal. We were not involved in the drafting or any discussion on the draft policy. There are aspects of the “draft” policy that go way beyond any Government mandate or expectation. The draft policy is confirmation that the risk assessment is a sham as FENZ clearly intends to make vaccination required for anyone entering a FENZ workplace as well as requiring all employees and volunteers to be vaccinated.
We believe FENZ is misleading in claiming that it will consider alternative duties for those in roles that will require vaccination but remain unvaccinated. FENZ has made it very clear to managers throughout the country that they are not to agree to alternative duties for unvaccinated firefighters. To date not one unvaccinated firefighter (now on leave due to the mandate) has been granted alternative duties. A couple have successfully applied for a vacant position and have been seconded or employed in that position. However, despite viable alternative duties being identified for some, FENZ has not agreed to any alternative duties. In the “draft” policy FENZ again states it will explore alternative duties (which it must do by law) but we do not believe FENZ has any intention of offering alternative duties based on the experience of unvaccinated firefighters.
The NZPFU supports a genuine risk assessment being undertaken on all roles and have actively pursued appropriate safety precautions including PPE and changes to procedures to reduce the risks to our members in the pandemic. We do not support the current risk assessment process as we believe it is pre-determined.
The NZPFU supports members being vaccinated and reminds members that they are eligible for a booster shot six months after their second vaccination.