President's Blog: Heads up 21

These are extraordinary and unprecedented times, challenging us in every way.  While I know that people will be feeling the growing pressure and tension of Covid 19 and the recent vaccination mandate, I am completely confident that we will move through this.  History has shown us time and time again that in challenging times it is humanity that prevails.  And we have an added advantage in that we are fire fighters, so we are used to dealing with exceptional circumstances, incident management is dealing with the unexpected, it is what we are trained to do, it is what we do consistently in emergency situations, it is what we do well!  So, I encourage you all at this unprecedented time, to lean on your firefighting skill sets, your humanity, your compassion and your understanding.

There is an old saying that I like to use, people may not remember what you said or what you did but they will remember how you made them feel.  This seems apt to me because we all know that this time will pass, we will be in a different place in six months’ time, in 12 months’ time, in 24 months’ times, and when we look back at this moment in history what we will remember overwhelmingly is how people made us feel.

The divisiveness on this currently political situation is obvious and I know that our members will share views about the management of this virus and the vaccine mandate right across the political spectrum.  So as you engage in robust and respectful discussions with your colleagues I encourage you to seek firstly to understand. None of us have been through anything like this in our lifetime, people, our families, home and work are worried, hesitant and scared and that’s ok. Just like everything else around change there are early adopters, those who pave the way if you like and there are those who follow and then there are those who are more circumspect.

As we have said, we urge you to get vaccinated in the wake of the Government health order, our work is captured. The argument that we are not paid for it is not lost on us and is something we are attempting to deal with in negotiations.

However, I respect the rights of those of our families who are hesitant around vaccination, we will be doing everything we can to preserve the employment of those who are hesitant to get vaccinated.

I also want to take this moment to reassure members that while all of the Covid 19 and vaccination management is going on we are still ploughing forward with our contract negotiations.  We have locked in dates up until mid-December 2021 with alternating weeks of negotiation days where the meetings are split over 2 x 2 hour sessions followed by a week of consolidation and response from FENZ and us.

This is another challenge for us with FENZ being hesitant to have people fly into Wellington just for negotiations and therefore we are operating via video on TEAMs. It is a challenge to say the least but one we are coming to grips with. Progress to date has us presenting all claims for all parts and having only received responses to part 1 and some of part 2. Part 1 contained a lot of work as all clauses in part 1 pertain to the entire membership and CEA. Four of us Wellington based officials are able to attend in person with a handful of FENZ reps able to as well. This has been the practice for the last 2 days and its been good to engage firmly and positively directly across the table.

When it comes to negotiating parts 3 and 4 we will be bringing in our reps from Comcen, black watch and trainers to assist in the negotiating process.

Our reps and SME’s are continuing to engage with FENZ on carcinogen project, decontamination, fleet, aerials, SDCC, safety and wellbeing, gas detection, training and more training, including ensuring the corrective actions for live fire are implemented and lesson plans are developed for live fire buildings. We are still following up on local planning every chance we get, this is truly the major change in FENZ legislation and we need to keep the pressure the district managers, regional managers and at NHQ.  

National conference is set down for late November in Napier with our Auckland reps (at this stage) joining us via video.  So please be reassured that even in these busy and changing times there is still plenty of progress being made around BAU.

And I want to finish off by reiterating what I said at the start of this blog, that as fire fighters we are trained and experienced in working in these uncertain times, people will be looking to us for reassurance, guidance and sometimes leadership.  Remember that people are always watching, at work, in your community and at home.  Social media posts, emails, conversations, all of these are being observed, people are listening to your language and intent.  So in these uncertain, these extraordinary, these unprecedented times I encourage you to use this position, this privilege wisely. 

As always, stay safe

Ian Wright

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