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Disappointed at Firefighter Union's Decision to Strike

Fire Service Commission Disappointed by Firefighter Union's Decision to Strike

Outgoing Fire Service Commission Chairperson, Dame Margaret Bazley said she is disappointed firefighters have given notice of strike action that will ban a significant portion of their normal duties. This follows their pay claim of 8.93 percent over 18 months by the NZPFU.

She said the 2.5 percent pay offer made to the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) is more than fair and appropriate in the current financial climate. The Fire Service is funded from the fire levy, which is public money, so the Fire Service has the same constraints as other public sector agencies on wage increases, she said.

"Today's claim for an 8.93 percent increase is completely unrealistic and is a significant increase over their previous claim in these negotiations which was for 2.9 percent, already above other state sector settlements.

The 2.5 percent offer made by NZFS is higher than any other recent public sector wage settlements. There is an additional increase offered in overtime rates and a one-off lump sum payment. "

Dame Margaret said firefighters pay had kept pace with the public sector over the past decade and there was nothing to support their claim for an 8.93 percent increase over 18 months which would put them well ahead of teachers and nurses, who received increases in the order of 2 to 2.75percent. Firefighter wages already compare favourably with these occupations.

Dame Margaret said the NZPFU had a long history of resisting any change to its collective employment agreement.

“They attempt to run the Fire Service in the interests of the union and not in the interests of the community.

“I am gravely concerned that once again the union has issued a strike notice that includes bans on training, equipment maintenance, home fire safety checks, community smoke alarm installations and data recording. They will, however, continue to respond to emergency calls."
“It puts the safety of the public and firefighters at risk,” she said

In 2009 they took the same type of strike action for five months. This resulted in a slow, real and persistent degradation of the Fire Service capability. It particularly affected the training and resourcing of its 8,000 strong volunteer workforce, she said.

"I have worked with many different unions over the past 40 years including the Public Service Association, teachers, nurses and others. Over time they all earned my respect. I have the highest regard for firefighters as individuals and this was reinforced during their response to the Christchurch earthquakes. However, I despair that the NZPFU will ever lift its sights above narrow self interest and play a constructive and responsible role in reaching a fair wage agreement that properly reflects the prevailing circumstances. Despite the Employment Court supporting the Fire Service by requiring mediated assistance for the bargaining, the NZPFU further demonstrated this attitude by today tabling a new pay claim that was significantly higher than they had previously asked for,” she said.

ENDS

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