On Wednesday 8 March, the PSA met with the department at the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) meeting. Some of the main issues discussed at the meeting were:
250 new roles for NPWS
The PSA was advised that recruitment for the roles was all going according to plan, with recruitment for all supervisory roles having been completed. Further to this, all Field Officer roles have also been advertised. However, with some direct appointment of roles (such as no talent pools used) the PSA suggested that it didn’t appear to be a clear and transparent process. Rather, it appeared to be a ‘Captain’s pick’ for these roles. The department indicated that only 15 out of the 250 roles were direct assigned and that this was consistent with the legislation governing recruitment.
Thurloo Downs acquisition
Whilst the PSA supports the acquisition of new reserves it continues to be concerned about resourcing of these reserves. Whilst the department paid in the vicinity of $120 million for the property only five staff will be recruited to manage Thurloo Downs, which is more than one million acres. Meanwhile the ‘incentive package’ to encourage recruitment and retention of staff out west is yet to be finalised and offered to new staff who may wish to apply for a role in this extremely remote location. This will, most likely, exacerbate ‘recruitment churn’ out west and create poor retention rates and other issues for new staff in the region. The PSA has been active in this space, meeting with the Department to provide input into any such package. Unfortunately such a package is still yet to be offered.
Vertebrate pest control program
Whilst millions of dollars are being spent on this program, staff are being advised that no overtime funds are available. Instead staff must take TIL. This is counterproductive to branches who, in good faith, loan staff for the program and then must cover their additional time off when they return to their home branch. The PSA was assured by the Department that it shouldn’t be an issue to pay overtime. If your supervisor says that this is not the case please advise them to contact either Naomi Stephens or Atticus Fleming direct to further discuss.
Work Health and Safety update
A Work Health and Safety (WHS) ‘roadmap’ is being prepared by the WHS unit. It is a broad planning document so unfortunately it doesn’t include helicopter operations. This would appear to be a serious shortcoming of the WHS roadmap. However, the recommendations of the recent crash of a helicopter in KNP last year are currently being implemented.
Special Investigations Unit
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) continues to remain short-staffed with three vacancies existing. This has been an ongoing situation for years and shows a total lack of commitment from DPE/NPWS to take law enforcement seriously in NPWS. Currently a Ranger is seconded to the unit to fill a vacancy on a short term placement. The PSA position is to have the SIU report direct to the NPWS Senior Executive and not be siloed away in DPE making access to them more difficult. Further to this if the NPWS was to take the matter of law enforcement seriously a duty lawyer should be appointed to NPWS and extra resources urgently allocated to the SIU.
The meeting was advised that there are currently in the vicinity of 400 firefighters in NPWS under supervision. This is more than 30 per cent of the NPWS firefighting force. Also there are not enough vehicles to support the number of additional firefighters recently recruited and due to recent wet weather events fire staff are losing currency. Consideration needs to be given by the department to extend currency provisions in their fire passports.
NPWS office accommodation
A range of issues have been raised in respect of office accommodation for members. These include lifts failing; flooding of offices; mould; not enough desks; inadequate office and storage space; no secure car parking facilities; no lockers; location of office/depots and lack of consultation in relation to new office design and internal fitout. Some new offices have become dehumanizing work places similar to call centres. Unfortunately the ‘one size fits all’ for offices and office space in DPE does not suit operational staff in NPWS. The department advised that some of these issues were being addressed and were currently being resolved. So watch this space !
National Service medal and clasp
The provision of such awards has long been an issue for members in NPWS. The PSA believes recognition and arrangements for such awards should be managed by the Department, as has been the case in the past. Instead, members are being told to research and locate documentary evidence of such entitlements then apply for the awards. This is not the case in other fire authorities. The PSA has asked the department to ensure that such awards are determined and provided to our members by the Department as they have the evidence and documentation necessary to verify the granting of such awards.