Our union has been in contact with both the government and the MFS in relation to the early resumption of enterprise agreement negotiations with a view to seeking a resolution of outstanding matters and in particular the resolution of our wage claim.
Responses have now been received indicating a preparedness to resume meetings once the government is properly installed and has received public sector briefings. Contact with our new Minister has been particularly positive and we look forward to working with the new government on the issues involved and implementing the commitments made on safety and resourcing of the MFS.
It has been interesting to note previous concerns raised by some managers about the “cost of the UFUSA industrial action” and I look forward to reflections on how those costs might now be seen as an “investment” given the boost to resourcing our fire and rescue service achieved by that same industrial campaign by UFU members.
Once again congratulations to all members, our families and our supporters who took part in our campaign and achieved outcomes which will not only better resource the fire and rescue service, but will importantly serve for example, to improve the health and save the lives of firefighters and engineering staff threatened by a work environment containing diesel particulates. We are all looking forward to the rollout of enhanced resourcing.
AMBULANCE ASSIST CONCERNS CONTINUE
The UFU State Council has been concerned for a considerable period about the rapidly rising number of ambulance assist calls, the increasing incidence of no ambulance being available for a call and the need for enhanced training to ensure members are equipped to assist our ambos properly and safely.
In particular State Council believes that specialised training should be delivered by subject experts and include manual handling specific to moving and lifting patients and this matter is being addressed with
MFS management with a view to early resolution. This is particularly important given that the number of ambulance assist calls is unlikely to decrease in the immediate future. In the meantime, the issue of the escalation in the number of ambulance assist calls to emergency services other than SAAS has been raised at the SAFECOM Board level and is being addressed by the emergency services sector collectively.
The program of retrofitting burn overprotection systems on existing MFS appliances appears to have ground to a halt for well over a year and advice has been sought from the MFS about their plan going forward given the proximity of the next bushfire season and the length of time involved in retrofitting.
COVID MANDATE UPDATE
We have sought the assistance of Professor Adrian Esterman of UniSA to provide advice on appropriate steps to enable the safe lifting of the Covid mandate in the MFS and with the agreement of MFS management, the professor joined our joint meeting by Zoom last week.
As stated in previous WORDBACKS, our union strongly supports vaccination and we take the issue of the safety of members, in this case your protection and that of the community, extremely seriously. The UFU has accordingly worked hard with the MFS over the last 2 years on measures to address the workforce and staffing needs arising in this respect.
Your right to your employment is also an important concern of course, so the radical step of the introduction to the MFS of the Covid mandate without consultation, is an ongoing issue which we continue to address.
We know from member feedback that vaccination is not a simple matter for some and that members involved have been devastated to be “stood down” from their employment, particularly when other mandates are now being lifted. Concern has also been expressed in relation to mandates being used as a precedent to preclude firefighters with a range of other health conditions, from their paid employment. The advice and assistance of PASA has been greatly appreciated in relation to this.
Professor Esterman advised the meeting that wearing a properly fitted mask at all times and conducting a rapid antigen test every second day before attending work, is the equivalent of being vaccinated giving hope that the mandate in the MFS could soon be lifted. Non-emergency attendance in some settings such as aged care will require alternative strategies which management are currently considering as they seek to increase the known vaccination rate within the MFS workforce. The meeting also noted Professor Esterman’s advice that around 10% of those who contract Covid will suffer from long-term Covid, potentially impacting on their ability to perform firefighting duties.
The UFU State Council is firmly resolved that based on the accepted science it is critical that we continue to exercise a sound precautionary approach to Covid while continuing to argue for the removal of the mandate in the MFS and the immediate reinstatement of firefighters to their employment.
CLOSURE OF UFUSA OFFICE
Due to the presence of Covid, the UFUSA office is temporarily closed. A deep clean is being organised and those staff not currently on leave will work from home. It is anticipated that the office will reopen early next week and in the meantime, our industrial work will be triaged with urgent work prioritised.
Thank you in anticipation of your patience and support.