The PSA and RFS Delegates met with RFS for the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) on 12 May. This bulletin provides a summary of that meeting.
Work, Health and Safety
The PSA had previously raised concerns regarding the lapse in time from Health and Safety Representative (HSR) elections and an agreed meeting of a Health and Safety Committee. That meeting is now scheduled for 29 May and there will be a PSA representative in attendance. In light of the recent RFS restructure, the PSA flagged that the Terms of Reference for the health and Safety structure may need some reconsideration but we are happy that processes for consultation between employer and employees are progressing.
We are further advised that there will be a HSR Forum at the end of June. This will bring together the more than 40 HSRs across the organisation.
There was discussion about the online processes such as Your Health Matters and RFS Connect to assist and advise workers on matters related to health and wellbeing. Whilst the PSA appreciates efforts of this nature, they need to be balanced with face-to-face support. The PSA is also concerned that the focus of many of these measures may be balanced more towards volunteers than RFS staff. We welcome any feedback you may have on these systems. Please advise your delegates of your thoughts. They will help us further discuss issues of health and safety with management in RFS.
RFS Dispatch Project/OCC
RFS advised us that the next cabs off the rank for the RFS Dispatch project would be occurring soon. The PSA has sought more detailed information and timeframes, as well as the impact on OCC staff. We were advised that there should be further information by the end of the week although it remains unclear as to how detailed this may be. We are aware that the intent is to have this in place before the next fire season, which is only a few months away. Whilst management stated that there would be no effect on staff or roles we remain watchful. This is a significant project and we want to be clear that members are safe in their employment, conditions and recompense, that they are consulted about change and that they are not subject to excessive workloads.
We will be seeking further information from management over the coming days.
As you would be aware there have been ongoing meetings and discussions between the RFS and PSA in regard to your Award. We have one more meeting set before a report back to the Industrial Relations Commission on 21 May and further meetings set beyond that. The PSA is currently awaiting a response from RFS to correspondence we sent on 15 April. That correspondence seeks to address remaining outstanding issues. Hopefully our next meeting will see further progression on this matter.
This is another vital project that has taken longer to progress than we had hoped. The PSA again asked for definitive time frames on the project as a whole. We were advised that additional components would be in place by the end of the year. Burn Notifications will be in place by 1 August followed by Activity Management. Other modules are being looked at and the Development Assessment module currently in place will be looked at again to iron out existing issues. We were advised that there would be ongoing work to improve the project in the New Year.
VRA Dispatch and Radio Calls
The PSA has been in discussion with RFS in relation to duty officers taking and dispatching NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) radio calls. At the JCC management recognised that there have been isolated incidents where this has occurred. We were advised that it is only meant to occur where:
- The VRA squad is located within districts that are on Central Dispatch – so calls are mostly taken by the Operational Communications Centre in Headquarters; and
- Consultation has taken place with local senior volunteers and District staff prior to the boarding of any VRA staff; or
- The district and VRA have an existing local agreement.
The PSA has continued to raise vacancies with RFS with particular concern where numbers are high or where vacancies have been longstanding. We raised a particular district in the recent JCC which seemed to suffer from both these concerns. Whilst management advised that they would prefer matters to be raised at the local level they would look into this particular matter and get back to us.
It remains the PSA’s intention to raise such matters centrally where we think it appropriate. We urge you to keep your delegates aware where positions are not filled in a timely fashion. This will enable us to be specific when discussing matters with RFS to actively seek resolutions to our concerns.
The PSA sought clarity regarding the recent Operational Brief from RFS referring to the NSW Ambulance Service’s Public Access Defibrillation program. Whilst the PSA sees value in this initiative, this should not diminish the importance of proper consultation with the PSA and our members. Management advised that they would draft an MOU and appropriately consult with the PSA.
Any such initiative has to recognise the wide diversity of issues that need to be considered including workload, training, and support for employees after critical incidents.
Bushfire Submissions The PSA has recently finalised submissions to both the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements and the Submission to the NSW Independent Bushfire Inquiry 2019-20. We thank all PSA members who provided information to our surveys, as well as the PSA RFS Delegates who were instrumental in assisting our Research department in drafting these submissions.
Recreation leave directions The PSA has been made aware that some members are being directed to take their Recreation leave when they go above six weeks (210 hours), without consideration being given to the fact that there is little opportunity for recreation whilst people are urged to stay at home. This issue has been raised with the wider Public Sector Industrial Relation team, and they have indicated that a common sense approach to directions to take leave should be applied. This means that if you can identify a time in the future when you plan to take leave, these options should be explored rather than blanket directions and outright refusal to consider alternate arrangements. If you are being directed to take leave, and you believe that any alternate plans are being unreasonably refused, please contact the PSA for assistance.