Interesting times are ahead for us all.

In the past weeks, we have met with FENZ management around two significant outstanding issues; medical co response recognition and Auckland task force recommendations/solutions.  The lack of traction of both of these issues has been met with a consistent claim from FENZ that they have no money, no money to follow through on their commitments of the 2018 CEA agreement?! The NZPFU does not accept this position on either of these critical issues and have reminded FENZ that both these issues were detailed in the terms of settlement and this current lack of action is quite simply deplorable.   

The situation in Auckland cannot continue to regress, we drew a line in the sand in 2018 and we are committed to seeing improvements.  Without the support of the national office the NZPFU has now begun working directly with Area managers to find the bare minimum that would be suitable for our members in Auckland.

The lack of recognition for medical response, is particularly intolerable given senior managers are on record in the media saying that firefighters were treated very poorly during the implementation of the MOU some years ago.  Medical response is now the single largest response type for FENZ, it is delivering tangible benefits to our communities, but the frequency and intensity of this response has not come without a cost for fire fighters.  For FENZ to turn around now and claim fiscal restrictions are limiting their capacity to meet their contractual commitments is unacceptable, this issue is connected to psychological wellbeing and our members safety at work, nothing is more important than this, and we will not rest until we see some movement on this issue.

We are perplexed as to why FENZ is not directly asking the Government for funding assistance to meet their obligations and to get funded for the work that we are doing for the Ambulance services and the public.  We are seeing the dumbing down, not the growth of the manager side of medical response, there’s clearly no money for that, there’s no money for a comprehensive psychological program offering based on call levels that the Union proposed and there is no money to formally recognise the working conditions of Professional Career Firefighters who are responding to the bulk of these medical emergencies!  The Union National Committee met last week and determined a course of action around this specific issue and Secretary Wattie Watson will be communicating this in the coming days. So keep your eyes and ears peeled as we will need to work together!

I’m writing this on the 1st July which is incidentally the end of the integration department.  I can’t help but surmise that they have left the building and with little to show for the extensive numbers that were contracted in this area at considerable cost.

One final point on the medical response, and this is a recommendation for the future, can you please monitor the coding of calls. Our MOU says we will only be responded to purple calls which are respiratory, cardiac arrest and/or of another life threatening nature. I’m asking all Officers to question their Comcen if medical calls do not appear to meet these criteria. If you have identified that it is not a purple call, Submit a K5 (available at incident), just in case there’s an emergency that we are funded for requires our immediate response. I also ask that Officers ask the Comcen dispatchers to advise the manager of medical response Gavin Travers of this call and it’s non purple status and he will ask the ambulance service for an explanation, Comcen will also advise us of the discrepancy.   We need to start recording these occurrences and role creep, especially given now some ambulance services are claiming they have no money and are cutting jobs!

We have been meeting with FENZ around the pay adjustment for 2020 using the Korn Ferry data as a guide. We have yet to receive some of the information we have requested, and we will definitely be in a back pay situation which we all know is not ideal however pressures around reduced staffing and job changes within FENZ leave us little choice.

We have also been meeting around FRMO, SFRMO roles and the position descriptions and proposed coverage of which Union’s CEA will apply. We have been working in a bipartisan way with the PSA delegates and are putting our cases clearly and concisely.

I’ve consistency spoken about our job and our crews being our second family. This really resonates with me as I value everything my crew bring with them to make us a functioning and committed watch. Different skills, experiences and perspectives contribute and lift our overall crew skill set and ability, it is these differences that ultimately makes us stronger.  That is not to say that we don’t still have some very important constants; our recruitment standards, our training standards our qualification standards and requirements. Of course it is these constants that set us apart from our volunteer colleagues. 

But back to the crew/watch/family and the discussion around our differences.  Like any family there will be disagreements and arguments, robust conversations, frank feedback and possibly times when we simply agree to disagree for the greater good.  These compromises are part of life, that’s not to say they are easy or come with comfort, often they come with the opposite.  What I am trying to say is next time you find your self disagreeing with some one or something take a moment to decide your response.   Stop and think, think critically but positively about why that person said what they said? Why did they act the way they did and try to understand their perspective before you respond. There will always be a reason, it may not be obvious, perhaps they misunderstood you, perhaps you misunderstood them, maybe the policy wasn’t clear, maybe the underlying reasons for policy needs to be explained better. I guess what I’m trying to say, (and I acknowledge I may not be saying it all that well) is that we need to treat others with respect, when we do that we are then in turn treated with respect.

Life on stations is usually great but from time to time it can be difficult and awkward. Take a breath, think on things and ask questions to make the effort to understand before you respond.  Lets not forget, these recent times have been stressful for everyone, at home, at work and with all our families.   

As always, stay safe

Ian Wright

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