In numerous communications over the past 6 months the NZPFU have declared that rank, role and command is not negotiable as it protects the health and safety of firefighters and the community. The protection of the professionalism of firefighting is not parochial, it is the protection of safe systems of work ensuring the appropriately trained, qualified and experienced personnel are deployed for response, and manage the systems in preparation of response. It is not “divisive” to respect and recognise the qualifications, experience and skills of professional firefighters. It is critical for the core functions of FENZ to be achieved safely.
Without the underpinnings of assessed qualification/service pre-requisites for each rank and each rank’s position in the command structure, FENZ cannot achieve its statutory principle objectives of protecting and preserving life, preventing and limiting injury and preventing or limiting damage to property, land and the environment.
The FENZ and NZPFU collective agreement codifies the rank and command system. Any attempt to change that system for any position including the assignment of rank and authorised command levels, directly impacts on our membership and their terms and conditions of employment. Your employment is directly affected even if the changes apply to positions external to our agreement, but are within the management and command structure of professional career firefighters. The health and safety of our members through the rank, role and command system is paramount.
Last week FENZ provided to the NZPFU Council in strict confidence the pre-consultation draft “Building Fire and Emergency New Zealand – proposals for our organisational structure and approach to rank”. FENZ’s intention was to discuss that proposal with us before sending it out for “consultation” through the FENZ ‘consider this’ electronic facility.
The NZPFU does not currently have confidence that the health and safety of our members, and the protection of the community, will be achieved or sustained under current proposals. Our focus is not about how we integrate the various organisations within FENZ, our focus is a safe, sustainable fire and emergency service that is able to fulfil it’s statutory obligations through safe systems and structures. The consequences are potentially grave.
Today we met with National Commander Kerry Gregory and Deputy Chief Executive People Brendan Nally and clearly articulated that any organisational structure proposal cannot be considered until we have documented and agreed the rank, role and command structure including the requirements/pre-requisites to be appointed to any position that impacts on the health and safety of firefighters. Our membership needs the guarantee that they will be not be managed, deployed or under the command of non-qualified personnel.
Kerry Gregory and Brendan have stated they will respond. They are of the view that it is not their intention to undermine the rank and command structure to the extent we have foreseen. It is concerning to us that discussions are not started at the current structures, but are starting at a pre-determined view to modify structures which we see as weakening the protections we currently have in place.
We require the protections of rank, role and command clearly documented and enforceable. Our members must be not be put in a position where they are vulnerable to being under the command or managed by those less qualified or experienced.
Once that is achieved, we expect the current organisation structure proposal will need to be amended and it is only then that a proposal will be in place for consultation.
We have also notified FENZ that their intention to “consult” with everyone through the ‘consider this’ programme is a breach of our rights to consultation under the collective agreement. There are specific requirements for FENZ to consult with the NZPFU. The intention to send a proposal document to everyone in the organisation for consultation through the ‘consider this’ does not meet the requirements for consultation under our agreement.
Once we have rank, role and command secured, and FENZ has modified it’s proposal to take into account those safe systems of work, we will then be in a position to be consult with you our members on any proposals and respond to FENZ accordingly. It is at that point that we will involve members to have a comprehensive and consistent response to proposals.
It is not in your interests to participate in any form of feedback on any proposal through FENZ’s ‘consider this’ process as it is bypassing your Union and rights to consultation under the CEA. We have notified FENZ that any attempt to bypass the Union or undermine consultation is a breach of our collective agreement. We will be enforcing your rights under your agreement should such action become necessary.
Attached is a letter we have provided FENZ today setting out the basis for that view and the process we envisage to resolve these most critical issues.