The Local is well aware of the psychological and financial implications that this 11-week lock down has had on our members.
Being locked in fire station bubbles has placed serious financial burdens on some, others having to move out of their homes to protect vulnerable family, progression halted due to training course cancellations, along with the day-to-day emergency responding into communities suffering the impacts of COVID.
On 14 October the Local wrote to the Auckland District Managers with a plan in anticipation of the eventual change, sign posted by the Prime Minister, to change to Alert Level 3, Stage 2. This included a controlled relaxation of the fire station bubbles into a District or part-District bubble allowing the movement of firefighters to maintain operational response capabilities. Additionally, we asked about the possibility of introducing rapid antigen testing of members working in Tamaki Makarau to allow the safe movement of staff between fire stations and those working in our 111 Communication Centre.
Almost one month later and no decision has been made by the National Commander or his Service Delivery Covid Co-Ordination Centre in reply to the suggestions and recommendations put forward by the Local to conduct a safe and controlled relaxation of station bubbles.
Members now face the absurd prospect of continuing to be locked into fire station bubbles, limiting operational response capabilities; at the same time they can go shopping in a shopping mall, visit a library, go to the zoo, get takeaways, order a coffee and socialise with up to 25 friends and family.
Fire and Emergency has had over a month to plan and prepare for the Alert Level change made by the Government and the fact that nothing is in place is unacceptable.
This is a continuation of the lack of planning, that Fire and Emergency has failed to prepare for when vaccine mandates come into effect. In our current station lock down, firefighters will be unable to be moved to fill any vacancies created when the vaccine mandate comes into effect, potentially meaning that fire trucks may be forced to respond with less than the safe minimum numbers of staffing and experience. This is a fundamental breach of safe systems of work that is completely avoidable if proper planning and preparation had taken place like the Local asked for one month ago.
It is incredibly disappointing that Fire and Emergency seems to be locked in a bureaucratic merry-go-round, with no one in authority able or willing to make a decision.
We will update members about the station bubbles once a decision has come through.