NEW EMERGENCY SERVICES MINISTER WELCOMED BY UFUSA STATE COUNCIL

Many members have reportedly been pleased to host visits to fire stations around the state by our Emergency Services Minister who has been busy getting out and about across his portfolio, and your State Council were very pleased to welcome Minister Joe Szakacs when he visited us during the May 2022 meeting of the UFU State Council.

 (Some State Councillors are not in photo) 

It was indeed refreshing to have not just a visit from our Minister, but the invitation for our union to be able to have open and honest dialogue with someone who clearly values and cares about the work of firefighters and especially one who has an understanding of our industry. The Minister (“call me Joe”) made it clear he does not intend to stand on ceremony and is excited about what’s ahead, in particular how the new government has already started to tick off the delivery of pre-election commitments made.

State Council were advised that the State Budget will be handed down on June 2 and while it will be tight, the commitments made to the UFUSA, including increased resourcing of the MFS and the development of a comprehensive asset management plan, will be delivered. We were glad to note that the emergency services are among those areas quarantined from any “efficiency dividends”.

Issues canvassed included a return to good faith bargaining on the Enterprise Agreement, consultative procedures, low workforce morale, overtime and act ups, recruitment and promotion procedures, regional operations, unfair dismissals, engineering, investigations, the Covid mandate, an extension to the presumptive cancer legislation to cover an additional 7 cancers, and strategic capability.

No doubt there will be areas of disagreement, but it is a heartening beginning from a new government, with this reinforced by the Minister’s commitment to putting the UFUSA issue of the extension of the presumptive cancer legislation on the national agenda for emergency services ministers.

Your campaigning has already helped bring about a significant change for firefighters, and we look forward to doing our very best to continue that work in a collaborative and consultative way.

WAGE INCREASES NEEDED AS THE COST OF LIVING ESCALATES

Naturally one of the areas of high interest and concern for UFU members as the clock ticks and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) continues to soar, is a pay rise for firefighters. SOON. So of course, reaching a resolution on this is currently very high on our agenda.

I note that ongoing discussions with members are indicating a continuing level of quite modest expectations matched with the anticipation that we will be treated respectfully and will receive backpay to 1 January 2021.

Across the community there is a broad understanding that economic recovery will not occur without reasonable wage rises flowing and confronted with increasing interest rates/rents and escalating costs of essentials such as food and fuel, we have a responsibility to ensure our wages keep pace.

It has been of interest to see the new Treasurer Stephen Mulligan recently warning state public sector unions not to have high expectations of wage increases, against a background of ALP campaigning on increased wages in the Federal election, however we feel confident that the new State government will not try to stick us with anything like the last State government’s miserly offer of 1.5% per annum, so correctly and overwhelmingly rejected by members.

The affirmations from both Minister Szakacs and the Minister for Industrial Relations Kyam Maher that the Malinauskas government is committed to consultation and bargaining in good faith, does not have the former government’s public sector wage cap policy and has not placed a prohibition on backpay are welcomed and will likely assist the parties in an appropriate resolution of the issues.

It is not unreasonable for firefighters to hope and expect that MFS management will step up and play a proper role in progressing that resolution. But so far we have been deeply disappointed.

It has been a number of weeks since we sought a date from the Chief Officer simply for a consultative meeting with the UFUSA. I regret to advise that the silence since has been deafening.

A number of issues from the last Enterprise Agreement remain outstanding and again, despite these legally binding matters being raised with MFS management, the silence continues.

Our union has worked for and diligently seeks improvements in the SA fire and rescue service to benefit members and the community we serve; perhaps naïvely we hoped that MFS management would step up and grasp the opportunity to work positively and collectively towards that objective with us in the new and encouraging environment.

The offer and the opportunity remain open but how long do we have to wait?

COVID MANDATE TO BE LIFTED

The announcement that the mandate preventing a significant number of members from returning to their employment with the MFS will soon be lifted by Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, is overdue and welcomed by the UFUSA.

As previously stated our union is committed to continuing to encourage vaccination against the Covid virus, while actively opposing a mandate which precludes members from employment.

We sought meetings with the MFS Covid task force and these have been and are ongoing as we continue to do our best to look after the interests of members across a broad spectrum of opinions and views, always striving to have input to ensure that policy emerging is fair, sensible and evidence- based.

We continue our commitment to participation in consultative processes which generally lead to the best outcomes and strongly encourage all involved to do likewise. A range of issues have been raised with task force management which we understand will be addressed by them as they continue the process of workforce consultation and as the trial period unfolds; our union will continue to seek to assist wherever possible.

In the meantime, the efforts of all those involved, particularly those dedicating their personal and unpaid time to understand and work to resolve the issues of concern, are acknowledged.

OVERTIME TRIAL PROPOSAL

The UFU has received an overtime trial proposal from the MFS Strategic Policy Framework Review Team for consideration which has been distributed to Shop Stewards and State Councillors for consultation with the membership. A meeting of this representative group is being convened at 09:30 hours next Thursday, 26 May 2022 at the UFUSA office where a presentation on the proposal will be provided by the MFS and questions can be asked and issues raised for discussion.

Members are urged to review the document and to raise any issues, questions or concerns either directly by email to info@ufusa.com.au or through your local Shop Steward or any member of the State Council. If you are not an elected union representative but have a particular interest and wish to attend the meeting or receive a copy of the proposal, please send your request to the above union email address. It is anticipated that there will be a high level of interest in this matter and the number of participants at the meeting may be limited.

APFF – DOES A MATE NEED A HAND?

Please remember that the APFF is seeking your support in helping to look after members by identifying when someone is off work related to Covid, so that they can coordinate delivery of a care package. You can provide details confidentially to any APFF board member www.apff.org.au to ensure your mates and their families will know they are not forgotten. You can also call 8232 9283 or email admin@apff.org.au

APFF

IN CONCLUSION

Sorry, I know some members will think this newsletter is a bit too long (which yes, it is) but it’s been a while since No 16/2022 and as always there is a heck of a lot going on. If your Station doesn’t already print a WordBack off and leave it in the mess room, I’d appreciate it if you would do that so that all members get this information and can discuss it and provide feedback. Thank you in anticipation.

In solidarity,

NEW EMERGENCY SERVICES MINISTER WELCOMED BY UFUSA STATE COUNCIL

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