In an Instruction to the Senior Management Team of 17 October 2005, Mike Hall has unilaterally overturned an at least 30 year established custom and practice regarding the qualifying criteria for the payment of a Gratuity on leaving the Fire Service.

Mike Hall has now determined that retirement from the Fire Service means retirement from the workforce.

The Union believes this new interpretation is completely wrong. Past practice clearly demonstrates that the vast majority of persons receiving a Gratuity have left the Fire Service to go to other employment.

This new Instruction by Mike Hall is a serious and significant attack on members’ conditions of employment. It would deny the vast majority of members on leaving the Service, many thousands of dollars.

It is extraordinary that persons required to leave the Fire Service because of Medical Boarding or failure to pass the P.C.A. can be refused their gratuity.

As well, the Union is aware that in a number of Matrimonial Property Settlements, the potential gratuity payment has been taken into account. In fact, the Fire Service confirms to the parties, the amount of the gratuity that would be paid.

What is even more bizarre is the new requirement to sign a declaration that purports to allow the Fire Service to recover gratuities paid if you do subsequently undertake further employment. Five years after leaving the Fire Service you get a part-time job at the Working Men’s Club – next day Mike Hall is knocking on your door demanding your gratuity back – extraordinary.

The Instruction only applies to gratuities provided pursuant to Section 55 of the Act – that is for employees.

Section 56 of the Act, which provides for gratuities to volunteers, uses exactly identical qualifying criteria. So why doesn’t Mike Hall’s Instruction apply to volunteers?

What is of even more fundamental concern however is that this Instruction is issued unilaterally – there has been no notice and no discussion with the Union, let alone consultation.

The provision surrounding the payment of gratuities is now provided in the Collective Agreement. The Collective Agreement specifically requires consultation with the Union over any proposed changes that may impact on terms and conditions of employment.

Mike Hall’s Instruction therefore is also procedurally a clear breach of the Collective Agreement.

The Union has advised Mike Hall that there is a dispute over the interpretation, application and operation of the Collective Agreement.

The Union has also advised Mike Hall that as a consequence, the Union has invoked the Peace Obligation clause of the Collective Agreement. Until the dispute is resolved, the status quo must continue to apply.

The status quo quite clearly is that a Gratuity is paid after the completion of 10 years service regardless of whether, on leaving the Service, further employment is undertaken.

Any members, who qualifying by service for a Gratuity, should contact the Union before proceeding with an application for a Gratuity.

The Union is seeking advice regarding the proceeding of legal action regarding the breach of the Collective Agreement by a total lack of consultation.

Examples of financial loss from this change to the interpretation of retirement include:

  • S.F.F. with 20 years service - $14,663
  • S.O. with 20 years service - $15,788

A quick and conservative estimate of the saving (i.e. money taken out of members’ pockets) as a result of this new interpretation of retirement is in the order of $1.5 million. One can only wonder whose bonus this will be reflected in.

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