The NZPFU has issued notices of one-hour strike action to occur on Friday 19 August and again on Friday 26 August 2022.
FENZ is on notice that all NZPFU members will stop work from 11am to 12 noon on Friday 19th August and again on Friday 26th August.
The NZPFU also immediately wrote to FENZ seeking mediation be set down next Wednesday and Thursday in a bid to get discussions moving towards reaching an agreement. The NZPFU hopes that FENZ takes every opportunity in the next 14 days to work with the union to reach a resolution and settle the bargaining.
This is an unprecedented step that has not been taken lightly but reflects the gravity of the situation. The NZPFU claims centre around safe systems of work and safety, health and wellbeing. The NZPFU members need enforceable and guaranteed protections to ensure they are appropriately staffed and resourced to protect the community.
FENZ has been rolling the dice on community safety and protection with its failure to have appropriate firefighter numbers or reliable fleet and equipment.
- Excessive hours firefighters and 111 emergency centre dispatchers are working have not been enough to maintain minimum staffing levels and as a result fire trucks have been offline and stations effectively closed regularly in recent months.
- The state of the fleet is dire with fewer heavy aerial appliances available than in 1990s. Systemic faults in the fire trucks and coupled with an aging fleet have resulted in firefighters left stranded with broken-down appliances to and from incidents, and on some occasions being issued with vans and utes as temporary measures when there are no other fire appliances available.
After more than 144 hours of negotiation over 13 months (including two rounds of mediation) the NZPFU and FENZ reached an impasse last Thursday. On Tuesday the NZPFU notified FENZ it would make decisions about industrial action no later than 3pm today. FENZ provided a new offer at 2.53pm which the NZPFU considered before deciding later to issue the strike notices.
- In their offer FENZ has agreed to four recruits courses in this financial year but that is only a drop in the bucket and only guarantees a return to normal recruiting levels for one year. Only 44 recruits were trained in the last financial year barely addressing attrition levels. There is still no guarantee the outdated staffing ratios will be remedied, and no guarantee there will be planning to assess current and future risk and response needs to ensure New Zealand’s fire service meets the changing needs and growth of the community. Career firefighter numbers and stations have largely remained stagnant since the 1990s.
- FENZ’s offer ignores the critical need for robust processes to ensure key health and safety issues are addressed including reliable and appropriate appliances and equipment are procured and maintained. Instead FENZ continues to attack consultation and dispute rights.
- FENZ has refused to offer any support to assist firefighters and other NZPFU members accessing income protection insurance but continue to automatically provide administration and non-operational staff with fully funded income protection and life insurance.
- FENZ refuses to include any provision recognising firefighters’ occupational cancer despite the World Health Organisation recently upgrading firefighting to a Group 1 carcinogenic to humans status.
- While FENZ has attempted to address some health, safety and wellbeing issues there is little faith they will follow through. Similar issues were recorded in a 2018 record of settlement and undertakings were either not honoured or never came to fruition. Other offers such as health checks will be inaccessible for many of our members.
- Wages are also yet to be resolved. Firefighters and other NZPFU members are considered low paid by public service standards. NZPFU members last wage increase was on 1 July 2020. While some of the percentage increases may look impressive, in reality it is for the very low paid raising the lower firefighter ranks to just above the living wage. The increases for the 2022 year go nowhere near the increased cost of living with many NZPFU members only being offered between 2% and 3.5% for the 2022 year. By comparison workers in other industries have recently been offered 6-8% wage increases for 2022. There are other barbs to the offer such as the removal of base wage increases for 2021 year instead rolling them into a 2022 increase robbing the employee of the benefits of compounding wage growth over time and removing any backdating to 1 July 2021. The one-off lump sum payment does not address all of those issues.
For more information see our notice to members.