COVID-19 IMPORTANT UPDATE

UFUSA Covid19

 CORONAVIRUS

Earlier reports on our involvement in SAMFS preparations for the challenges presented by the coronavirus are contained in Wordback Nos 11 and 12 of 2020 

Our union continues to work in close consultation with MFS management in relation to changes necessary to prepare for this pandemic here in South Australia and in particular on the proposed MFS Business Continuity Plans (BCPs). 

We are certainly in confronting times and your State Council representatives have collectively resolved that strong and in many cases unprecedented measures are called for; work practices that otherwise would never be contemplated. 

You will shortly be receiving advice from the MFS of the detail of the content of the BCPs for Metropolitan and for Regional Operations planning for worst possible scenarios. 

Overnight on Tuesday 23 March 2020, State Council considered and agreed to a range of measures which may be implemented as the organisational levels of preparedness (OLOP) escalate. 

The escalation will occur as available MFS staffing numbers decrease, as it is anticipated they will significantly, as we move deeper into the pandemic. 

All MFS employees will receive All Staff Emails, updating you on what will apply, what changes are being made, in a very dynamic situation so please watch out for them. 

The MFS has made a firm commitment that escalation to the next action in each OLOP Level will only occur as it is required and that they will continue to consult with the union prior to each escalation being implemented. 

Our President Chas Thomas is heading up our UFU Operational task force for the consultative process with the MFS. I will continue to be involved in the consultation together with our UFU Executive members: 

Vice President (Officers) Chris Barry 

Vice President (Firefighters) Michael Riggs 

Treasurer Matt Watherston 

All our elected officials are available to discuss these matters; you can contact State Councillors Gideon Douglas, Brad Robertson, Tim Maitland, Shaun Goad, Rhys Lauritsen, Steve Smithson, and Greg Chivers with your comments, questions and feedback. 

Retained Firefighter Shop Stewards Nick Williams, Duncan Harrington, Rachel Eisen and Wayne Arthur were involved in consultation with management on the proposed Regional 2 

Operations BCP in a teleconference on Monday afternoon following the EA meeting by teleconference. 

I regret that the speed of events has not enabled us to consult much more widely on these important matters however timing is critical. It is been encouraging that feedback from those members spoken to by State Councillors has been very supportive. Your ongoing feedback, nevertheless, is greatly appreciated and welcomed. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact your UFU representatives with any questions or concerns or you can direct them to the union office is always, on 8352 7211 or by email to info@ufusa.com.au 

Across the draft OLOPs, the measures available include cessation of community engagement, changes to the daily work routine, cancellation of training, reduced crew experience and skills currency, decentralisation and segregation, entry to stations only where authorised, use of extra PPE and precautions, work from home arrangements, recalls from home station/cluster, Relievers working from home, Day Workers largely deployed back to Operations, OTR largely deployed to operations, use of act ups and downs, 24-hour shifts, cross staffing, cancellation of leave, no relieving across stations, reduced attendance as per multiple incident procedure, deployment of Retained Firefighters in metropolitan areas or vice versa, “silos” created in country regions commencing with Mount Gambier and Port Pirie, use of CFS crews and appliances to cover peri urban areas, responding longer distances to calls, responding to other types of calls such as SAAS and SES calls (we understand that the SES have been asked to provide backup to the SAAS), consideration of interstate contingents of firefighters, consideration of riding mixed crews of CFS and MFS firefighters on MFS appliances. 

As you can see these extend across the spectrum of actions from mild to extreme. 

Your representatives on our UFU State Council firmly believe such measures are likely to be warranted in the weeks and months ahead. We hope they are not required but we cannot ignore that the global experience is grim. 

For your information, the range of provisions agreed with the MFS include: 

  • Consultation with our union will be ongoing and will occur prior to significant upgrades. 
  • The process of recording staff absences (on which OLOP upgrades will be based) will be transparent and shared. 
  • Recalls procedure will remain and recalls will be exhausted prior to any act ups being approved. 
  • Personnel who feel they have been too long out of operations/lack confidence in their current skill set, are provided with appropriate support or alternate options. (The MFS report they already consulting with such personnel and providing skill updates and/or appropriate support or alternative options.) 
  • Increased online training particularly in areas such as infection control will be provided and time invested in online training at home by retained firefighters will be recognised. 
  • Up to 15 days “urgent pressing necessity” leave is being made available. 
  • Reduction of up to 5 pumping appliance is a last resort – it is agreed there will be no reduced capacity unless EVERY POSSIBLE option has been exhausted. Excess overtime is not an acceptable reason. 
  • Queries and concerns will in the first instance be directed to the Duty Officer allocated to this function. Members direct concerns to the union where resolution is not able to be reached. 
  • Retained Firefighters will have access to extended unpaid leave from your MFS employment, should you need it due to, for example to attend to your primary employment or business. 
  • CFS crews and appliances to be briefed on MFS COVID-19 requirements and provided with appropriate PPE before being committed to MFS responses. 
  • In any implementation of 24-hour shifts, consideration will be given to issues of fatigue. Potential consequences of 24-hour shifts must be considered. 
  • The emergency arrangements will revert to normal operations after the declared health emergency has ceased or sooner by agreement, if circumstances permit. 

The MFS Chief Officer Michael Morgan has provided our union with a written undertaking that these measures will only be applied for the duration of the public health emergency and there will be no attempt to continue them at its cessation. 

There is no doubt that we are stronger together and we will be best placed to protect the health and safety of our members, our families and our community by sticking together, and going hard on this virus, while implementing precautionary principles. 

Thank you for your support and understanding and especially for your commitment to our union and to our community. Please take great care. 

UNION OFFICE 

The UFU as an employer has taken direct steps to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our staff, officials and members and hopefully the general public by practising physical distancing wherever possible together with a range of other measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Access to the Union Office is restricted, staff are largely working from home and members are requested to contact us by calling 83527211 or emailing to info@ufusa.com.au Thank you in anticipation of your patience and understanding as we deal with existing and incoming issues according to priority; fair to say that for the moment, normal business is pretty much suspended as we collectively confront the challenges largely unprecedented in our time. 

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT (EA) UPDATE 

The most recent meeting for negotiations on the new firefighters’ enterprise agreement focused on the log of claims developed by members employed as Retained Firefighters. It was held by teleconference on Monday, 23 March 2020 and we were most fortunate to have four UFU Retained Firefighter Shop Stewards involved in the meeting to speak on behalf of members employed in MFS Regional Operations. 

Duncan Harrington from Mount Gambier, Rachel Eisen from Murray Bridge, Wayne Arthur from Kapunda, and Nick Williams from Port Augusta spoke on behalf of members who often don’t have a voice and they were able to provide graphic examples of the issues confronted by Retained Firefighters in the MFS. 

Importantly these issues concern the inadequacy of resourcing in areas such as appliances, equipment, training and PPE and thanks to the articulate nature of our Shop Stewards’ representations, MFS management have undertaken to review matters in a number of areas. 

While the government as employer continues to say that they won’t discuss resourcing in the context of an EA, the arguments are pretty convincing that changes are required. We are hopeful that many of these issues can be addressed inside or outside of the EA for both full-time and retained firefighters; they are only now getting attention because they are being raised at the bargaining table after being ignored for years. 

It was quite a long meeting for a teleconference, but that allowed us to get through the complete log of claims which also included arrangements for deployments, a register of training and recognition of training qualifications already attained, specialist training on a quarterly basis, remuneration and callout rates, training plans, training time, delivery of the mental health first aid training where it hasn’t yet been rolled out, first arrival training, and fire 4 

ground welfare. The next meeting for EA negotiations is scheduled for 1 April 2020 and will be conducted by either teleconference or videoconference. 

KI DEPLOYMENTS – USAR OT PAYMENTS 

A number of members deployed to KI with USAR have approached us regarding non-payment of OT for their deployment. Our Union has been in contact with the SAMFS and we are advised that payments have now been authorised and members should expect to receive payment shortly. If you do not receive payment by payday of 9 April 2020, please let us know ASAP. 

ELECTION FOR THE UFUSA STATE COUNCIL VACANCY – BALLOT EXTENDED 

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has requested that we post the following notice to members on our website in relation to the current ballot for the casual vacancy of Committee of Management Member – Firefighter Representative (E2019/175). 

We have done this and now include it for your information in this Wordback. 

Please be advised that, due to current circumstances, changes have been made to this election as follows

  • The close of the Ballot will be extended to 10.00am on Wednesday 22 April 2020. (extended from 5.00pm, Thursday 9 April). 
  • No new ballot papers will be issued to reflect this change of date for the close of the ballot. 
  • Completed and returned ballot papers will be accepted for inclusion in the scrutiny up until the new closing time and date of the ballot at 10am on Wednesday 22 April 2020. 

If you have not yet received your ballot paper, you should contact the AEC on 8237 6555 ASAP and quote reference number: E2019/175. 

I am required under legislation to keep an accurate roll of members so if your postal address has changed in recent times and you HAVE NOT advised your union, it’s enormously helpful if you would contact us to advise the change of details by calling us on 83527211 or emailing to info@ufusa.com.au Thank you for your assistance. 

MFS CAR AND BIKE ENTHUSIASTS’ CRUISE 

As you may have expected the Foundation has advised that the Cruise has been postponed but Tom says they’ll get it up and running again as soon as possible and hopefully by the end of 2020. Meanwhile, thanks for all the replies and enthusiasm. 

In solidarity,

COVID-19 IMPORTANT UPDATE

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United Fire Fighters Union Of South Australia - UFUSA

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