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Government Buying Its Way Into A Firestorm

The Government is poised to further inflame the tensions which are dividing the Fire Service, National's Internal Affairs spokesman Lindsay Tisch said today.

"The proposed 14 percent pay rise for firefighters who belong to the Professional Firefighters' Union will leave other firefighters severely out of pocket.

"Community Service Team firefighters will be downgraded under the new deal, and that will see their earnings cut by between $8,000 and $16,000 a year.

"CST team leaders will be hit hardest. They will have their pay cut by $16,000 and will be downgraded to a status equivalent to Qualified Firefighters (which is a relatively low-ranked job designation used for some NZPFU members).

"To become a CST Team Leader you must hold an internationally-recognised qualification in firefighting, and achieve 100 percent competency after 1,300 hours of study. By contrast Qualified Firefighters are union members who must achieve just 60 percent competency, after a comparatively small amount of training.

"It is clear that those working in Community Services Teams are being penalised simply because they do not belong to a union which has close ties to the Labour Party.

"It is utterly ridiculous that CST firefighters were excluded from the contract negotiations which have led to the pending settlement for union members. This downgrading of CST firefighters is certain to inflame tensions which are already evident in the Fire Service.

"It is also appalling that these significant payrises for unionised firefighters will do nothing to improve safety or reduce the incidence of fire. And it does nothing to improve the severe shortage of equipment and resources which is hampering the efforts of thousands of volunteer firefighters.

"Instead this payrise serves only one purpose - to firm up the already snug relationship between the NZPFU and the Labour Party," Lindsay Tisch said.


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