The Report of the Independent Review of Workplaces Practices commissioned by FENZ was publicly released today. The Review lead by Judge Coral Shaw has made 33 recommendations to “reshape” the organisation to adopt a zero tolerance approach to the issue of bullying and harassment.

The NZPFU has repeatedly and publicly condemned harmful workplace behaviour. We see workplace culture or incidents as a health and safety issue.

Our members put their health, safety and wellbeing on the line every time they respond. Professional firefighters and Communications Centre members are exposed to the community in their most desperate time of need. The dedication to serve the community at the detriment of personal health and wellbeing is an admiral attribute. But the sacrifices should not extend into the day-to day workplace or on station. The inherent nature of fire and rescue creates a dynamic and volatile workplace. We cannot eliminate those dangers but we can adopt zero tolerance of harmful workplace behaviour.

The safety and wellbeing of our members, regardless of position, rank or seniority is paramount. We have always, and will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of our members who individually or collectively face a workplace safety or wellbeing issue.

This Review is a line in the sand. It ventilates issues and experiences of those that participated.

The Review team acknowledge in the Report that the sample of employees interviewed were self-selected and it is not possible to state the extent to which these views reflect the experiences of all FENZ personnel. No instance of bullying or harassment is acceptable, but we note that of the 14,000 within the FENZ organisation, 1487 completed the survey and 60 were interviewed. The Report does not provide a breakdown of those participants so we do not know to what extent the comments and commentary specifically relate to our members.

Key findings include:

  • 76% who participated in the review had no direct experience of FENZ complaints processes and approximately half were not familiar with reporting processes.
  • of those that experienced bullying and harassment, 69% said the perpetrator was a colleague senior to the complainant.

Based on those two findings the workplace requires fair and just complaints processes; and robust management training.

As with most workplaces, there has been and continues to be an element of poor workplace behaviour. By their nature, workplace relationships are complex. FENZ is an amalgamation of professional, volunteer and rural fire agencies and staff which adds to the complexity. In the context of a newly constituted organisation populated by groups that have undergone, and continue to undergo, a period of uncertainty and significant change, it is not surprising that workplace behaviours are under the spotlight.

This Review has acknowledged the wealth of varying experiences within the organisation and recommended practical solutions to address negative behaviours and to provide a more respectful environment. The NZPFU will be drilling down on the findings of the Review, and as a Union we will discuss and determine any specific measures needed to provide our members with a safer workplace.

A copy of the full report will be available on the FENZ portal this morning. 

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