In response to Regional Manager Devlin’s latest Notice, the Auckland Local of the NZPFU wishes to provide the following statement to members.
The key point is that Fire Emergency has not been able to provide any operational reason why West Harbour and Silverdale Volunteers must not comply with the Service Delivery Pandemic Protection Ptotocols (SDPPP), and instead are allowed to stay on station overnight during Level 3.
Auckland career firefighters have borne the brunt of several lockdowns in the last 12 months. Our career firefighters have followed the intent of the SDPPP protocols to ensure that service delivery standards are able to be maintained for New Zealand’s largest populace. This has been at extreme hardship to our members, both financial and emotional, however, our firefighters are willing to accept these burdens as they realise they are protecting themselves, their families and the communities they serve with pride.
In March 2020 it was a race to get the appropriate procedures and planning in place. There was an incredible amount of catch-up needed as the country went into a hard national lockdown with little warning, other than what we were seeing happening around the world. Many people worked extraordinary hours under great pressure to ensure those decisions that were necessarily made in haste were still based on sound principle and advice.
We are in a different situation now. New Zealand now has the B.1.1.7 variant of the SARS-CoV-2 in the community that is more transmissible. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reported this variation was between 50% and 74% more transmissible that the early variants, and later research on UK cases between October and November 2020 concluded it was 70-80% more transmissible. The variant has continued to be researched with similar results at the mid 70% rate of increased transmissibility.
The exponential risk of this variant has been emphasised by the Prime Minister, and the Director-General of Health, and is expressly the reason for the abundance of precaution in the Government’s actions even when there are very few confirmed community transmission cases. This was evidenced by the Prime Minister’s urgent press conference announcing Level 3 restrictions for Auckland and Level 2 for the rest of the country. The concerning transmissibility of this particular variant was emphasised.
It is increasingly apparent to career staff that Fire and Emergency does not share these concerns and, in fact, is willing to risk the safety and well-being of its employees. Until last week, the National Commander’s own operational instructions for Level 3 Service Delivery Preventative Protocols stated:
1.12. Volunteers should only be on station for incident response or to maintain skills.
Volunteers must not be on station on standby unless specifically dispatched by ComCen.
For FENZ to ask, or even endorse, that station bubbles are broken during a National COVID Emergency, which is directly against the instructions from our Prime Minister to follow the Rules, is abhorrent. We are already living the repercussions of previous lock down and isolations protocols not being followed.
The Region and National Commander’s decision to ignore his own operational instructions and protocols, as well as our Prime Minister, is unforgivable to our firefighters. To change a National Protection Protocol to mask over the vulnerabilities of a heavily skewed reliance on volunteers is abhorrent, particularly when this places career firefighters at risk. The contingency planning for COVID to ensure an emergency response capability involves the separation of Fire Emergency Work Forces into Career, Volunteer and Rural.
By ensuring a separation guarantees that if one work force becomes contaminated, emergency response is able to be maintained by the remaining forces.
In support of this planning, the NZPFU position is as follows:
The NZPFU will not tolerate any potential of cross contamination of work forces at Alert Levels 3 and 4.
Any Local decision making at Alert Level 2 must take into account that if the volunteer brigade or community is that vulnerable at Alert
Level 2, it must be red flagged as potential issue for higher alert levels and surge capacity/task force planning needs to be prepared and
- The NZPFU will not continue to relitigate protocols to assist FENZ to mask over their vulnerabilities of a heavily skewed reliance on volunteerism.
The career staff of Auckland wish this statement to be logged with the SDCC for the official and historical record. For avoidance of doubt, this is official notification that NO Local Agreement exists between the Auckland Local and Region Management for the purpose of COVID Level protocols.
The Local Executive will be meeting with the three Area Managers from Auckland to find a safe and practical solution in preparation for any future Alert Level 3 and 4 being imposed. However, if we are still at an impasse, the NZPFU will consider enforcing the protocols, procedures and contractual rights that govern staff movements and change of stations in non-Covid 19 times to the circumstances where Levels 3 and 4 are declared.