NZPFU members will be taking the historic action of walking off the job for an hour from 11am on Friday. This will be a complete work stoppage by NZPFU members nationally. FENZ has publicly stated they have contingencies in place but have not disclosed the detail of those contingencies.
Any hope of avoiding the NZPFU strike have been quashed with FENZ deciding it sees no merit in continuing bargaining talks this week.
The parties last met last week in mediation. On Wednesday the NZPFU presented an amended set of claims which significantly reduced the overall cost of the NZPFU claim. Some of NZPFU’s key claims derive from the 2018 record of settlement where it was agreed staffing issues and recognition of medical response project would be undertaken during the course of the agreement. That work was either not done, or if done the outcomes were not implemented. It is long overdue for FENZ to address these matters.
A week later FENZ have yet to respond to that claim and have confirmed that they have not even completed a costing of that claim. The gravity of the pending strike action wasn’t enough to give the bargaining priority status or for FENZ to have any sense of urgency in costing or continuing to communicate on unresolved matters.
Over 94% of members at 29 membership meetings voted for the one-hour stoppages that will start on Friday. The NZPFU has not walked away from the bargaining, but FENZ’s lack of urgency or desire to keep working towards a resolution have left us no option but to proceed this Friday.
This is not a battle focused on wages. This is a fight for appropriate resourcing to protect the community and safe systems of work.
All NZPFU members covered by the bargaining will be walking off the job for one hour from 11 am on Friday 19 August returning to work at midday. The NZPFU claim covers the following classifications:
- Firefighters and Officers,
- 111 emergency call centre Dispatchers and Shift Managers
- Volunteer Support Officers,
- those working in the Community Readiness & Recovery and Risk Reduction advisor/senior advisor/CRM roles,
- Trainers and Senior Trainers
- those working in the Health, Safety and Wellbeing roles including Welfare Officers and Coordinators; and
- those in specialist roles including Specialist Fire Investigators.
In the NZPFU revised claim we withdrew the claim to include Group Managers in the collective agreement as we will give notice of intention to bargain a separate collective agreement for those roles instead. Therefore our members who are Group Managers will not be taking strike action. However any member seconded into a Group Manager position whose substantive position is covered by the bargaining is also covered by the strike notice (for example Officers acting up).
The strike action will take place in the 19 different towns and cities in New Zealand where there are NZPFU members including career firefighters.
This was a very hard decision for the members who were hoping FENZ would make the bargaining a priority and come to the table ready to resolve key issues including the systemic failures apparent in FENZ. That has not occurred. The members are united in their view that if they do not act now nothing will change in FENZ. Public safety is regularly put at unnecessary risk due to FENZ’s failures to employ sufficient staff and ensure appliances and equipment are reliable and maintained.
The members (operational and non-operational) will meet at a designated fire station before walking off together to congregate at a public venue. They will be joined by volunteers, families, friends and public supporters. For those wanting to support the NZPFU members you can meet them at the following venues:
Meet at Whangarei station and walk down to Dent Street and Riverside Drive intersection
Key locations are the main intersections near Auckland City Fire Station Pitt Street and Papatoetoe Fire Station 15A Lambie Drive. For the full list see Auckland Local Notice
Meet at Tauranga Station and walk down to the corner of Cameron and Elizabeth Streets
Meet at the fire station and walk to the park across the road
Meet at Hamilton Fire Station and walk down to the corner of Hood and Angelsea Streets
Two venues – walking from Rotorua Station to the corner of Depot Street and Old Taupo Road.
The trainers and trainees at National Training Centre will be congregating on State Highway 30 outside Wahanaga-A-Rangi Cresent
Meet at Taupo Station and walk down the Lake Front towards the town centre
Meet at Gisborne Station and March to Heipipi Park by the courthouse
Meet at Napier Station to walk down to Taradale Road/Hydrabad roundabout
Meeting at Hastings Station to walk down to the BP/Stortford Lodge roundabout
Meet at the New Plymouth station and march down Liardet Street to the Molesworth Street T intersection. Alternative bad weather location under the yellow canopies on Devon Street
Meet at Wanganui Station and walk to the SH3 and Heads Road intersection
Meet at the Palmerston North Station and walk down to The Square
Meet at Masterton Station and walk down Chapel Street to the Town Square
Key location is outside FENZ HQ on 80 The Terrace. For the full list see Wellington Local Notice
Meet at Nelson Station and congregate out the front
Key location will be the corner of Colombo and Hereford Streets. For the full list see attached Christchurch Local Notice
Meet at Timaru station before marching through town to assemble at the corner of Stafford and Strathallan Streets
Key event is at City Station and walk out to congregate on the street
Meet at Invercargill Station and walk to the Tay Street/Queens Drive intersection
Update on the bargaining
FENZ continues to push a narrative that the bargaining is all about remuneration despite the NZPFU and its membership publicly calling for processes to address the fire crisis of unsafe staffing levels and reliable appliances and equipment. The NZPFU claims include a focus on members’ health and wellbeing are key to any settlement as well as recognition of the personal toll on out members including occupational cancer and mental health disorders resulting from repeated exposures to trauma.
The NZPFU amended claim includes:
- Recording of current establishment levels and staffing levels, an agreement to increase staffing ratios and an agreement to conduct no less than 4 recruit courses a year in order to reach the new staff ratios. We are also seeking a process for planning (required under the FENZ Act) with provisions to ensure that FENZ implements increases in staffing, stations, workplaces, appliances and equipment as determined on the evidence.
- Access to a health screening programme that will result in early identification and diagnosis of illness and disease such as occupational cancer
- Appropriate medical response training that includes appropriate training for the environment in which medical response is undertaken including in the presence of distraught families
- A mental health programme does not rely on self-referral but at least annually gives our members a prompt to visit a mental health professional
- Income protection insurance – currently FENZ automatically provides income and life insurance to non-operational staff and is refusing to pay a reimbursement allowance so that firefighters and other members can access income protection/medical/life insurance.
- Recognition of medical response through a weekly allowance.
- Implementation of the Auckland Taskforce outcomes through an annual metro allowance with an agreement to annually re-assess the appropriate metro area that the allowance should apply to.
- Wage claim for all ranks and classifications (other than those corresponding to trainees and firefighter rank) of 4.5% for the 2021 year, 7% for the 2022 year and 6% for the 2023 year. The claim for the trainees is 11.6% and 7.5% for the firefighter rank for the 2021 year to ensure they are paid above the living wage and the relativity between the ranks remains.
Despite our members not having a pay increase since 1 July 2020, FENZ is refusing to pay a wage increase for the 2021 year and instead is merging its previous offer into the 2022 year, applying a market rate to the 2023 year (but not less than 4%) and a one-off payment of $2000. Refusing to pay a 2021 increase means there would be no backpay and the employee loses any cumulative advantage. FENZ’s claim that is offering between 19.1% and 8% over two years is misleading as in reality it covers three years of wages. Further the 19.1% is only for the 12-week recruit course and only achieves the living wage for those trainees.
FENZ is refusing:
- to provide any level of income protection insurance for our members despite FENZ automatically providing income protection/life insurance for non-operational personnel.
- to make any payment in recognition of medical response despite the 2018 record of settlement acknowledging the firefighters’ pay structure does not include that response and FENZ undertaking to address that issue
- to provide any metro allowance even though its own Auckland Taskforce recommended a range of ways to address the recruiting and retention issues
- to agree to guaranteed staffing ratio increase but agrees to hold recruit courses in 2021 (which it should be doing anyway)
- to provide a health programme unless the NZPFU agrees it is on an interim basis and will be superseded by a health standards framework (which is unknown and likely to include punitive measures including dismissal)
- to provide a psychological support programme for all members only agreeing to a pilot for about 200 people
- to guarantee appropriate medical response training only providing a non-committal commitment to expanding “where it can be identified”
We are some distance apart but we can’t bridge that gap with FENZ not in the room and committed to working through the issues. Needing more than a week to respond to our revised offer is not good enough and indicates FENZ has not real dedication to resolving this dispute.
FENZ must lift its game – come back to the table genuinely ready to work towards resolving issues.