Instead of spending his energy getting around the mediation table to resolve the many critical issues,  FENZ Deputy National Commander Brendan Nally has been sending out communications wide and far with thinly veiled threatening references to the code of conduct.

Today rural and urban volunteers received an email from the Deputy National Commander which included the following:

“As this a matter between Fire and Emergency and the NZPFU, I appreciate you continuing to undertake your roles as you normally would. There is no need to make any different agreements or arrangements. In addition, I strongly encourage you to not to make public comments regarding the strike or bargaining. I’d also remind you the normal Code of Conduct and policies still apply.”

The Deputy National Commanders attempt to gag volunteer firefighters today follows his email last week to NZPFU members threatening disciplinary action for those undertaking lawful industrial action. He kicked an own goal as he failed to comprehend his notice fitted snugly within the industrial action ban of non-compliance with any rule or policy that prohibited public comment which reflect negatively on FENZ including the display of visible union signage and placards.  Read for more detail on the irony of that situation.

But this is not a laughing matter.

  • Other FENZ staff who are not members of the NZPFU report they have also been threatened with disciplinary action if they speak about the NZPFU strike action or bargaining. 
  • Some non-NZPFU members have defied orders not to communicate with the NZPFU at all to let us know how oppressive FENZ leadership is behaving.  
  • Managers are being told to take photos of NZPFU members undertaking lawful industrial action for the purposes of possible disciplinary action.

Instead of threatening disciplinary action, the Deputy National Commander should listen to the commonality of issues being raised by NZPFU members, volunteers and other staff.  FENZ is in crisis and attempting to gag those most affected won’t resolve that crisis and only disrespects, disenfranchises and devalues those doing their utmost to protect the community.

The staffing crisis in career fire stations and 111 emergency call centres, the lack of reliable fire appliances and basic equipment including hose and the failure to provide appropriate mental health care for those exposed to trauma are all issues affecting all firefighters whether volunteer or career and whether metro, urban or rural.  They are all life and death issues for the public.

The gross expenditure in building a corporate structure to the detriment of response capability continues with FENZ recently announcing 50 new positions in the ICT department.  The corporate growth and waste is abhorrent when compared with the state of emergency response across New Zealand. 

Career fire stations are regularly closing due to lack of career firefighters, or trucks deploying without sufficient firefighters impacting on response and safety.  Failing trucks and hose leaving firefighters in structure fires without water, other firefighters stranded on the way to emergencies or limping to the garage to repair breakdowns. This week one station has to carry critical motor vehicle accident cut-out equipment in a ute with no timeline for a replacement appliance.

  • All these failures directly impact on the outcome of the public as minutes can mean lives. 
  • All these failures directly impact on the safety of those responding.
  • What will it take – an avoidable and serious injury or death?

The lack of career firefighters puts further pressure on volunteers and their employers to respond in highly urbanised communities including Auckland.  That is without taking into account that FENZ has failed to increase the number of career firefighters since the 1990s and despite repeated requests we have seen no plans to do so.

Because of the dire state of appliances, by the time they are cascaded down to urban volunteers (25-40 year old trucks), the truck is unreliable and due to the lack of transparent and robust maintenance scheduled, many are prone to repeated failure. The rural brigades are also being stripped of resources as FENZ continues to move firefighters and appliances like chess pieces. One example is a rural brigade situated in a community of 15,000 nestled around native bush have had three of their rural firefighting trucks and vehicles removed leaving them with a small truck that carries gear but only a couple of firefighters and a van for support.

Urban and rural volunteers are reporting they are also feeling disenfranchised, disrespected and devalued by FENZ and its focus on a corporate structure that only continues to grow to the detriment of operational response.  We have had overwhelming support from FENZ volunteers as the NZPFU continues to expose the fire crisis and the impact that crisis has on the protection of the community.  

And a reminder – bullying is threatening someone who is in some way more vulnerable.  Bullying Free NZ defines bullying as including a misuse of power in a relationship, is deliberate and usually not a one-off. The Government website Employment New Zealand reminds us that employers are responsible for setting the example of what is acceptable and creating a culture where all people are respected.

FENZ’s leadership team needs to refresh itself of its own glossy poster of values of doing the right thing, serve to support, being better together and striving to improve.

It is time to put the public protection and safe systems of work first.  

In unity,
National Secretary
Wattie Watson

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