Industrial dispute regarding vacant roles
The PSA has lodged a dispute in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) in relation to unfilled vacancies in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
In March 2018, nearing the end of the Future NPWS restructure, the NPWS provided the PSA with 16 agreed structures, which included eight Branches. In spite of agreement being reached between the parties that all roles in the new structures were “fully funded and would be filled” many of these roles remain vacant. The Deputy Secretary of NPWS has given undertakings to attempt to “fill some gaps” where vacancies exist. However, the PSA has been waiting more than 12 months for information to be provided by senior management on these vacancies. This includes information on the number of vacancies; roles and locations.
Given the new structures for the most recent “realignment” have been provided, there appears that many vacant roles have simply been deleted. This is adding to the already significant workload and stress issues for members attempting to not only plug the vacancy gaps but also to find the time to manage the plethora of new projects. Whilst the PSA applauds the funds and staff being provided for some of the new projects, staff are required to manage this workload and pre-existing work loads.
The matter will be heard in the IRC on Thursday 29 July and we will update members from these proceedings.
Save our Species (SoS) and Koala programs
Last Friday 23 July, the PSA was briefed about changes to the SoS and Koala programs. The PSA supports these initiatives and specifically notes that a number of roles that were previously temporary in the SoS program have been converted to ongoing roles.
- There are 18 roles that have been converted to ongoing
- Eighteen staff having their contracts extended and a further 21 staff to be comparatively assessed (as their contracts can no longer be extended).
These staff have the opportunity to apply for the 43 new roles which will be externally advertised. The PSA has, and will continue to advocate, on behalf of members whose roles are temporary for their conversion to ongoing. We applaud NPWS for continuing to convert such roles.
Further to this, the PSA reminded the Department during the meeting that the Government’s target is to double the number of koalas in NSW by 2050. This being the case, it would seem counterintuitive not to offer ongoing roles to ensure that experienced staff were retained for the duration of this project.
Recently members who have applied for deployment to fires overseas (Canada and the United States) have been advised by the NPWS that only staff under 50 years of age will be considered. After a number of complaints my members to the PSA, the Association has sought an explanation from the Department.
The Department advised the PSA that this is not a condition applied by themselves or the RFS (as the agency that co-ordinates overseas deployments).
It is a condition set by the governments of the countries to where fire fighters are being deployed. The condition imposed by those countries is to ensure that firefighters entering the country are more resilient to the Delta strain of the COVID-19 virus.