Today the NZPFU notified FENZ of a dispute demonstrating FENZ’s organisational restructure proposal breaches the NZPFU agreement and FENZ’s duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Fire and Emergency Act 2017.

The preference to unqualified, untrained and/or inexperience personnel is contrary to FENZ’s duties and obligations. Stating that FENZ will develop a “competency assessment framework” some time in the future does not negate these breaches.

In accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, FENZ and its officers have a primary duty of care to ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable, the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work.

  • The safe systems of work for NZPFU members are founded on the career firefighter rank progressions for Firefighters and Officers up to and including Senior Station Officer in specified in Part 2 of the collective agreement.
  • The Firefighter/Officer progression system is underpinned by mandatory assessed training programmes at each rank with the consolidation of prerequisite years of service/experience before being eligible for the next rank. The safe system of work is carried through with those in command (Assistant Area Managers and Area Managers) having those underpinning qualifications and experience.

The combination of the restructure proposals with the Employee Transition Protocol preferences non-professional firefighters for Commander roles and preferences them over seconded Senior Station Officers who are currently seconded into those roles.

The “Employee Transition Protocol” labels certain individual employees or position as either “affected” or “impacted”. Under the proposed protocol, any person seconded to a higher position with an entitlement to return to the rank of SSO would be labelled “impacted”.

  • We believe this applies to 42 Senior Station Officers either seconded into Assistant Area Commander roles or other roles ranked above SSO.
  • FENZ has proposed to label Principal Rural Fire Officers (PRFOs), Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officers (DPRFOs) and others as “affected” giving them preference of appointment to the “new” positions of District Manager (Chief Officer) or Group Manager (Deputy Chief Officer) replacing Area Managers/Commanders and Assistant Area Managers/Commanders.
  • There are no protections in the proposal to ensure that the current substantive qualified and experienced Area Commanders or Assistant Area Commanders will be appointed over the other “affected” non-career personnel. The system has been designed to remove the barriers of qualifications and experience so that the non-qualified and inexperienced can be appointed.
  • Those SSOs currently seconded into AAM roles are deprived of the right to the job they are undertaking as they would have to wait until all other “affected” employees are considered for the role of Group Manager before even being considered. Given the numbers of those “affected” versus the number of proposed positions those “impacted”, even those SSOs who have been performing the role for years, won’t get a position under this preference scheme.

This is an attack on our safe systems of work which protect firefighters and the community.

This is an attack on the rights of our members and our members’ career pathways.

We have notified FENZ of breaches to the collective agreement including the requirements including clauses and schedules regarding vacancies and appointments.

The NZPFU considers the proposed appointment process is also unlawful in light of obligations imposed by the Fire and Emergency Act 2017, including the requirement to appoint on merit.

We have grave concerns that the combination of the proposals, preference scheme and undermining of current rank and command structures will put the health and safety for firefighters and the public at great risk.

We have sought a response from FENZ by the end of the week.

In unity,
Wattie Watson
National Secretary

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