This bulletin is one of a number we are sending over the coming days to explain aspects of the principle document recently put to you by the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
This particular bulletin covers Hours of Work. Others will follow addressing the other key aspects of discussions.
Please be aware we are taking on board all views expressed by members. This entire process is to enable that.
The information below is to help you to clarify your views. We will be providing a survey for you to fill out in the near future. From that we hope to have a very clear idea of what our members want in all aspects of the award.
Hours of work
The basic principles are as follows:
There will be time recording of hours of work.
This will ensure there is a true record of hours worked by RFS employees. We believe this will demonstrate very clearly that employees are working in excess of the hours for which they are paid.
A Flexible Working Hours Agreement will be in place.
The Flexible Working Hours Agreement (FWHA) will allow people to accrue hours. Those accrued hours will allow you to work shorter days when desired or take flex days off work.
Without formal approval you can work any amount of hours between five and eight hours. Approval can be obtained to work outside that range.
You can take up to 26 flex days per year – an average of one per fortnight.
The FWHA also allows for banking of hours (the maximum of hours you can hold in your bank at any one time is 35). These hours can also be taken. Please note that banked hours not used are extinguished at the end of the financial year.
The FWHA allows flexibility as to when you work in the day. Some staff have meetings very late in the day. They can plan their hours around that. Options include starting work later, splitting your day or seeking approval to work over eight hours with all hours above seven accruing for future flex days.
The FWHA will replace Agreed Absences
We understand that some members have expressed concerns regarding the conversion of Agreed Absence (AA) days to a FWHA. AA days were established to recognise the extra work that staff may undertake, such as meetings in the evening, extended days and weekend work.
The PSA believes the majority of employees in all areas of the RFS are already working hours well beyond that for which they are paid. Staff are already accruing hours but no-one is keeping track of them. The benefit of the FWHA is that people can take more days off than before, can work more varied hours and weekend work is treated differently.
We also understand that some non-field staff believe they will not accrue hours. The feedback provided from other staff throughout the sector is that this is not the case. The FWHA is essentially the movement of hours to enable maximum flexibility. A person should be able to plan their work to achieve that.
Currently RFS employees have received little benefit for working on weekends. A key outcome sought by the PSA was that weekends be recognised as different and be treated as such. The current principle put forward in regard to this allows for people who are required to work on the weekend to accrue hours in line with penalty rates (such as time and a half on Saturdays; time and three quarters on Sundays).
Staff are at still able to choose to work on the weekend in place of days in the week but where they make that choice the time accrues hour for hour.
The PSA has previously flagged with the RFS that it believes overtime should be applicable within bandwidth when directed to work more than seven hours. This remains a point of disagreement between the parties.
The benefits of the proposal are:
- The recording of work will give a truer indicator of excess hours worked by employees of the RFS and help us in arguments relating to resourcing. Excessive workloads can also be identified as a Work Health and Safety issue and recording will make that clearer.
- Employees will be able to use the FWHA to enable more days (flex days) away from the work place than the current AA system.
- Where FWHA accrual systems can at time lead to lost hours the banking system does much to mitigate that.
- A FWHA opens up more options for staff in terms of improving work/life balance.
- Weekends are treated differently to week days which was a key aim in these discussions.
As stated above we want to hear your views regarding this, so please keep an eye out, and participate in, our upcoming survey.
Not a member?
If you want to have your say, join the PSA today at www.psa.asn.au/join.