President's Blog: Heads up 24

While reflecting on what I wanted to write in this blog I was reminiscing on my experience on the ILDC.  This course has had significant NZPFU input and currently run by long time Union member Chucky Power, it is anticipated that all our operational leaders should complete this course in the next five years. 

Out of 446 Career officers across the motu, 179 have completed the course and leaves 265 still to attend.

A regional breakdown of those yet to attend looks like:

Te Hiku
Nga Tai ki te Puku
Te Upoko
Te Ihu
Te Kei

91 of 144
21 of 57
88 of 138
43 of 65
22 of 42

This course has both leadership and incident management focus but is also very individualised, identifying people’s strengths and quietly nudging attendees to address their weaknesses by giving and receiving feedback from their peers.  Sound terrifying?! 

It was, but I can’t recommend it enough.  Yes, it was challenging but was an extremely positive learning environment. As all graduates of this course would have learnt, growth happens when we get out of our comfort zone, and I encourage all those who haven't yet completed the course to stretched themselves and apply. 

It is our job as leaders to demonstrate and lead by example, to show and live the values of a strong and safe crew/watch so that those who are following us can learn what we show and demonstrate to them.

The course is a safe environment to learn, share experiences and contribute to the development of the current and future leadership capability within FENZ.

The course offers the opportunity for Officers to enhance their leadership knowledge as well as refresh their Incident Leadership skills and is one of the few opportunities available for Officers to do this once they have completed their TAPS programmes.

I am amazed, but somehow not surprised at the ingenuity and skills of our members using all of our social media platforms when it comes to bringing attention to the public and government and of course FENZ about our dispute and the many issues that need resolving through and beyond our current dispute.

It has certainly been a long journey for all of us, however we are hoping we can see the light is at the end of the tunnel. Our industrial  action has been effective in raising awareness of the systemic issues within FENZ and the extremely low rates of pay, certainly compared with others within FENZ. It was also successful in terms of educating the public and having them in turn putting pressure on the Government, culminating with 2, one-hour stoppages, which hasn’t been done since the mid 80’s. This action wasn’t taken lightly and tugged at all our senses of doing the right thing. However, you all stood strong and showed the power of being unified which sent the strongest message to the Government. As I said we hope we see the light at the end of the tunnel but we have issued more strike notices in case we need them,  and the omnibus of bans continues until we have reached a settlement.

We have just completed our 34th National Conference held in Whangarei last week. By my calculations, this only leave 3 Locals around the country that have yet to have a National Conference, being New Plymouth, Nelson and Timaru. Our wish is to get to these 3 remaining locals over the next 3 years.

The Whangarei Local did an amazing job in assisting the organising of the conference, with a Powhiri to begin the conference with local members led by ex-member Wipari Henwood now the District Manager, welcoming conference delegates and our international guests from Canada and Australia to Whangarei.

As usual, the discussions were wide and varied and we received fantastic presentations on firefighter cancer from IAFF Canadian Trustee Alex Forrest and the incredible work he has been involved with at the World Health Organisation and IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) with firefighting now classified carcinogenic to humans (Group 1A).  That is sobering to have our occupation ranked as carcinogenic as some of the toxins we are exposed to like benzene but it is hugely significant for the global campaign to have firefighters’ occupational cancer recognised through presumptive legislation to ensure firefighters are able to access their entitlements as they would for any other work injury.

We recognised 3 members of our Union for Life Honorary membership, all voted unanimously in favour by standing ovation. Those members being, Mau Barbara from Southern Comms, Sulu Devoe and John Waldow from the Auckland Local.

I want to give a shout out to the frustrated and over worked welfare officers we have.  We are the union that represents by far the majority of those working in health, safety and wellbeing.  The welfare officers are particularly under pressure like us all and are working very hard to support our members through the struggles many of us are either witnessing ourselves, or in others. They recognise that we haven’t got welfare and wellbeing right just yet and this is evidenced by our claims in bargaining to boost both physical and psychological welfare of our members across the board. They are at the frontline of trying to deal with harm, we need to, and they deserve our thanks for their work to date and into the future. We know there is a need for more welfare officers and in fact some of our members and Local representatives are doing sterling work to support our members. One in particular is Auckland Local and Northern Branch Vice President Jeff Shrimpton (Shrimpy) who works tirelessly supporting our members.

Finally, to the National Committee, those members have given their time tirelessly and instantaneously at times to meet and travel throughout this arduous bargaining process. We can’t thank them enough for all the unseen and unsaid work that they do, their individual contributions to the collective good is astounding. It’s a difficult space trying to thank everyone for their contributions to a successful campaign, just know that Joe, Wattie, myself and the National Committee really appreciate everything you all have been doing.

As always, stay safe 

Ian Wright
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union
Te Kāhui Kaipatuahi o Aotearoa

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