This past few weeks has many of us thinking about SFF Patrick (Sarj) Sarjeant from Hamilton. My thoughts are with the crews and families from across Hamilton Fire brigade.

From every tragedy we struggle for reasons, if only, what if’s. Looking across our own crews, our second families, for how they are travelling, looking for insights and indicators and warning signs. Now is the time for caring, conversations around the mess table, in the trucks on shift checks and with our families at home. Conversations with our work family, With our home families? And more importantly doing our own checks, how am I travelling? I think it’s important to recognise we all have permission to check in our family members and most importantly, ourselves. For some it may be difficult to do, but once you ask once, it gets easier and easier, becomes the norm, and the fact that you’ve taken the time and interest to check and ask a family crew member will say a lot not only about you, but the crew/family members you ask about, that we care.

I want to acknowledge that it can be extremely hard to deal with the loss of life.

Acknowledging that we Firefighters face the challenges of dealing with such tragedy well also potentially facing distress as a result of our work life, home life, and exposure to critical incidents.

Acknowledge that this can have a cumulative impact, impact on Firefighters that can at times impact our ability to cope. Which is why it is important to for us firefighters to know that it is okay to reach out for help at this time or any other time.

Part of my SSO promotion work has involved a sometimes-confronting process of self-reflection. We could all benefit from learning and practicing this, especially when checking in on ourselves and our own wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

This was further reinforced to me at a wellbeing meeting I attended at Avalon station a few weeks ago. External contributors were involved in educating crews on psychological wellbeing l and used a personal message and story to increase awareness of just how normal it is to have these feelings of stress and distress and how it manifests itself in different ways across different people. It became apparent in the room that some firefighters were worried about speaking up about their challenges in the fear that FENZ will use this as a way to exit them from their jobs. It is my view, that FENZ invests a lot of money in training and developing firefighters and this includes assisting firefighters in their times of need. However, the issue of trust must be addressed as it is critical to the access and effect of any assistance.

Mental health and wellbeing is a big issue in the wider community and NZ society as a whole.The statistics are growing as to how many of us are affected by it and the reality is that as fire fighters, we have a greater risk to mental harm and mental injuries given the work that we undertake. I encourage you all to check in with your families both at work and at home.

To steal a quote from the wellbeing seminar, from a Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In essence, when things happen to us, we should take the space, take the time to reflect before responding; Being more mindful.

Since my last blog, 5 NZPFU reps (Wattie, Joe, Norm, Slab and myself) underwent 2 challenging days of job size training by Korn Ferry in preparation of undertaking the job sizing process. What we see happening is that we will have to agree on the Job Descriptions, so Trainers, VSO’s, FRMO’s and Comcen Dispatchers/operators, expect to be asked to contribute to this. When agreed, we will be bringing in SME’s from those groups to challenge, interpret and help analyse what each of the roles do so that we can re job size each role, including SFF and SO. Part of this process is to also re look at the comparator group. We have started talking about the medical response recognition piece of work that is required from the last CEA Terms of Settlement. Early days, we are gathering international evidence and have briefly indicated one way in which it could be sorted. There is plenty of work to be done here, of that I am certain. Secretary Wattie brings a wealth of knowledge from her work with the UFU in this space also.

We are still discussing the REM review for this year. Trying to tick off a few long-standing issues while we are at it whilst being mindful that it is only supposed to be a REM review process. We will keep you updated when things are finalised.

I spent a bit of time out relieving in the last couple of weeks. Over the top as it were. A good opportunity to get out and work in different places with people I hadn’t yet met and those who I haven’t worked with for years. It was great to make those connections, talk and spread the word about how we as a Union Council, Committee and overall are doing.

Electronic voting is now being trialled for the Auckland Local Committee elections, where 18 members are contesting 10 positions. The process is being run by our Webmaster Jaron Phillips, with the Northern Branch Retuning Officer, Grant Mitcheson assisting. It seems to be going very well so far and we await the results and the feedback from Jaron and Grant. I see a future in electronic voting in the future for positional elections. The rules will have to be changed to accommodate electronic voting should that be the wish of the Conference. I will still be asking for next year’s Branch Elections to be conducted in the same fashion as this one.

If I could change one thing around probably pretty much every station mess table and in the cab of a truck would be the conversations that we have, the language we use. It is these conversations that set the tone for culture in our workplace and I am challenging you all to think before you speak, what are you choosing to talk about? Who is around the table/in the cab? Is what I’m about to say adding value? Inclusive? Respectful? Am I comfortable with the language my colleague just used? We need to stand up and have courage with each other, none of us really know what someone else is going through, what triggers them, what wears them down, what may appear to be funny once, isn’t funny 10 times. Would we say the things we say in front of our partners? Our children? How do we retain the fun and mirth within our crews without harming others? Humour is an integral part of our culture and coping mechanisms, so we have to work at preserving the best parts of that culture while being conscious of the effects of our conversations.

Remember, support is available, and you will be supported in accessing it.

Below is a link to the Staying well - promoting wellbeing and resilience Handbook from FENZ, I would encourage you all to download it and have it handy.

I would like to thank Josh Darby for his wise assistance in helping me with this blog.

As always, stay safe.

Ian Wright


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