President's Blog: Heads up 26

It’s been a while since my last blog, and deliberately so as everyone is suffering some form of fatigue, whether it be working, struggling with payroll issues and post negotiation fatigue, I know it took a lot out of us all. I know I’m feeling it as the year came to an end and the new year starts.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for the resilience you have shown, the solidarity and trust you showed the National Committee throughout the negotiation and industrial action process. We could not have achieved the outcome without all of you contributing in all the various ways you did.

There is some positive work continuing in the appliance, staffing and equipment working parties. However, FENZ appear to be ignoring the collective employment agreement including clauses that have remained unchanged for many years.  There seems to be an attitude to deny and stall NZPFU members’ access to their entitlements and the failure to address contractual matters (including the new provisions agreed in last year’s negotiations) does not augur well for this year’s bargaining.  The failure to genuinely consult is a common theme in disputes and FENZ’s answer is to just try and claim there is no dispute.   The National Secretary will provide more information as we are having to file cases to get issue resolved.

For the first time ever, the Secretary and I were invited to address and take questions at the District Manager Hui at NHQ a few weeks ago.  We have all seen the disconnect between the commander group and firefighters on the floor and we asked them to encourage the resolving of issues and complaints at the workplace level including complaints where our members are on both sides of the issue.  Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to resolve disagreements and issues at station level and all too quickly escalate to managers who revert to the BCO which the Union has always advised members does not operate in a procedurally fair manner, results in lengthy timeframes and often includes FENZ using external lawyers as the “investigators”. 

We also challenged the District and Group managers to be the reason people come to work and not that firefighters come to work in spite of them. We asked them to show leadership with less emphasis on management, and to be seen around fire stations and incident grounds. We need to encourage commander response so that they have confidence that we are highly skilled at what we do and so they understand we only have confidence in those that have the training, qualifications and necessary experience in the relevant response. We are after all, preparing and working towards ensuring the best outcomes at the “big one”.

We completed our 36th annual conference in New Plymouth early November. We only have a few locals that haven’t hosted a conference and it is the wish of NCOM to hold an annual conference in every local; Nelson, Timaru, Whanganui and Kawerau are the only ones left to do.

There were 3 nominations for Life Honorary membership at this conference, Peter Harwood from Hawkes Bay, Creagh Eising from Palmerston North (who prior to this conference had attended every single previous conference, no mean feat by any means!) and Jaron Phillips, our webmaster and ex comcen shift manager in Auckland, who undertook an enormous amount of work and was responsible for all social media output over the industrial dispute. So successful was his work that he has been approached by other Unions inside and outside of New Zealand to participate and run similar campaigns which is an indication of his and our success.

There is good news regarding the Incident Leadership and Command course (ILDC). The context has been reviewed and a new format is coming out for a week-long course instead of a 2 week course which many members found difficult to attend. Such is the importance of updating our skills in command and control that this flexibility has emerged and hopefully made it more attractive to our officer group and future officer group to attend and experience leading incident thinking, planning simulation and I strongly encourage those who have not completed this course to do so, not only as personal development but for the benefit of those we command on the incident grounds. The course is a safe space for members to practice, learn and hone those command and control skills, decision making and incident ground structuring alongside other members. Command and control training is nothing to be worried about, we owe it to ourselves to be the best we can, and this course will help you be the best you can.

To the Vice President, Joseph Stanley, the Secretary, Wattie Watson (the Council) and our NCOM, Martin Campbell, Jeff Shrimpton, Terry Bird, Tony Aidie, Rob Hutchison, Rik Walsh, Aaron McKay, Mark Leonard and Norm Gilroy, thank you for your contribution to firefighter conditions, welfare and safety. We are a very cohesive and solid NCOM with amazing experience.

Finally, to all the Local Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries and committee members and NZPFU staff thank you! An often-thankless task where you very rarely get contacted about anything good or positive, your tenacity and willingness to act on behalf of those that can’t is not forgotten or lost on us. Thank you.

Stay safe! 

Ian Wright
New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union

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