Dispute update: Rural Fire Service Award - Public Service Association

Dispute update: Rural Fire Service Award

The PSA will be prosecuting the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for multiple breaches of your Award conditions in the Supreme Court in the coming months. The PSA intends to prosecute the RFS for its failure to pay overtime and to allow employees to elect between overtime and leave in lieu overtime. The PSA is presently reviewing the RFS’s conduct to identify any other breaches which will need to be included in these proceedings.

This decision has come after the recent judgement of the Industrial Relations Commission in Public Service Association of New South Wales v NSW Rural Fire Service [2023] NSWIRComm 1052, where Commissioner O’Sullivan recommended that the PSA and RFS enter negotiations to resolve the application of the overtime entitlement under the RFS Award. In accordance with the recommendation, the PSA provided the RFS with a detailed proposal on 9 June 2023. On 27 June 2023, the RFS confirmed that it did not propose to engage in negotiations with the PSA in accordance with the recommendation but would instead engage in consultation on the development of ‘award guidance material’, thereby negating all time and effort spent by the PSA, the RFS and the Commission in hearing and determining the dispute. It is the industrial equivalent of taking one’s ball and going home. This is perhaps not surprising considering the RFS made the extraordinary submission during the hearing that it would not follow any recommendation it did not agree with.

The RFS’s recent conduct also comes after its refusal to negotiate with the PSA on its proposed amendments to the RFS Award which the PSA provided in October 2021. Amendments which the vast, vast majority of the members’ support.

In addition to our current discussions with the Minister and as a consequence of the RFS’s conduct, the PSA is now compelled to bring this issue before a Court to prevent ongoing award breaches and to pursue backpay of unpaid overtime. The PSA intends to commence proceedings in the coming weeks. The downside of this course is that the variations to the RFS Award will not be arbitrated until the Supreme Court proceedings have been determined, as the outcome of those proceedings will bear upon the variations sought by the PSA. That is an unfortunate consequence of your employer’s continued reluctance to engage with the PSA on its proposed amendments and its failure to follow recommendations of the independent industrial umpire.

The PSA intends to provide a survey in the coming weeks to identify individuals to be involved in the Supreme Court proceedings, so keep a look out.


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