Dear Members,

There has been as there always will in time when the Union exercises its democratic right to take industrial action, some wide and varying statements from the management of the Fire Service.

Or are they from the management.

It was very interesting to read an e‐mail to all of the Fire Service staff, not just union members, from Dame Margaret Bazley. In that e‐mail Dame Margaret states a few matters that need to be replied to.

Dame Margaret says that she has worked with many unions over the past 40 years, and I can say that she has not worked with this Union. I have been involved with my union for over 35 years as an official in one form or another. In that time I am aware of only one meeting where she was invited and attended to talk with us.

And quite rightly too! The New Zealand Fire Service, as we all know, is a Crown Entity. The Commissioners are appointed by the Government of the day. They are appointed as governors of the Fire Service not managers. They are required to appoint a manger to manage the running of the Fire Service. Dame Margaret is the Chairperson of this Governing body. As such she should not have contact or be working with or against the union.

That role is for the manager that the Commission appoints, Mike Hall. Mike is the Chief Executive Officer, and as such it is his role to work with the union, as representatives of his staff, to ensure that a good working relationship exists. I think that Dame Margaret should stick to her role.

Dame Margaret states that firefighters wages have kept pace with those of other relevant sector agencies, and later names teachers and nurses amongst those. This is wrong.

Some of you may be aware of an e‐mail that has been circulated covering this matter by one of our senior members. I have not checked the figures but assume by the reputation of this member that they are correct. They state that is 1989 a senior teacher earned about $30,000 and a senior firefighter earned about $38,000. Now a teacher (not senior) earns about $64,000 and a senior firefighter about $55,000. Does that sound like our wages have kept up, I don’t think so.

During negotiations we are constantly told that the Government does not want us to get a decent pay rise as that would send the wrong message to other state unions. Well we are not a state union, we are the professional firefighters union. We are not a government department, and in fact the Government of New Zealand does not even pay its fair share of the cost of the fire service.

Most Government Departments do not insure and therefore do not pay for the fire service through insurance levies.

We are also told that the Commission will not allow us to have a decent pay rise as they cannot afford it. How about the Commission asking the Government to pick up at least some of the costs for the recent earthquakes in Canterbury?

The unions’ negotiators have thought very carefully about the ramifications of asking for the amount that we have. We did not just pick a figure out of the blue and say that’s it.

An initial increase of 3.75% would put the base hourly rate of a firefighter non‐driver at about the New Zealand Governments minimum hourly rate for an adult worker, pretty fair I would suggest.

An on‐going increase pegged at less than the current rate of inflation, is also very fair.

It is apparent to all commentators that the cost of living in New Zealand is rising rapidly. There is no reason to believe that this will abate any time soon. Commentators are predicting that the Reserve Bank will lift interest rates sooner rather than later, some say as soon as November. This means that your mortgage rate will increase placing further pressures on your wages.

I think that a Senior Station Officer, who in most cases is the senior fire officer in most all major New Zealand cities, who responds to emergencies, is worth being paid $67,000 a year. This is considering he works 42 hours a week over seven days and nights 52 weeks of the year. Also when considering the nature of the job with its inherent dangers and responsibilities.

Yours fraternally

Steve

Steve Warner
National President
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

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