NEWS

KEELTY REPORT RELEASED

As members may be aware the Keelty Review into Queensland Police and Emergency Services was given in principle support by Cabinet yesterday Monday 9 September.

A media article is available at:

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/outdated-technology-hampers-queensland-police-finds-review-by-mick-keelty/story-fnihsrf2-1226715462928

The report is available here.  A complete analysis is currently being undertaken, from the perspective of potential impact on SOU members.

As members are aware, a long standing position of the SOU has been that the Fire Commissioner should be a CEO in his own right.  It appears at this stage that this has been achieved through this review process.  Having said this, the SOU Executive is acutely aware that there will be other elements of the review which may or may not impact on SOU members.

Whilst the detail contained in the review is looked at closer, members are asked to continue operating in their role as senior officers in a consistent and professional manner.

Further advice will be forthcoming.


Thank you
SOU State Executive

INTERIM PAY RISE GRANTED - EFFECTIVE 8 DECEMBER 2013

Update: The Full Bench has granted an interim pay increase of 2.2% for all employees affected by this arbitration -  the increase being effective 8 December. Given that senior officers had already been granted an interim pay increase of 1.7% in late 2012, the effective rise for senior officers will be .5%. This pay increase was granted due to the extended period required for the Full Bench to provide a reasoned arbitration decision, expected to be released during the first half of 2014.

Original Story 

The final Arbitration hearing occurred last night 3 December 2013.  All parties provided their final submissions, with the Full Bench expressing their appreciation for the manner in which all parties presented themselves throughout the many hearings that have occurred since Arbitration commenced earlier this year.

The Full Bench will now retire to consider all evidence as presented, with a decision subsequently being released in due course.  This may take time though, possibly up to 3 months.

Please see the most recent Presidents Newsetter available here for an update in detail on Arbitration and other matters.

Regards

SOU State Executive

NEW PROCESS FOR SOU FEES COLLECTION

As SOU members would be aware - the state Government will soon no longer support the collection of union dues through the DCS payroll system.  This means the SOU now needs to seek alternative methods of receiving dues.

The SOU has taken steps to set up a direct debit facility to accommodate this change. Available here is a form which members are asked to fill in and return to the union email address treasurer@qfr-sou.asn.auWe are requesting for this form to be returned by the end of August so the SOU will have all the information necessary for a seamless transition.  It is important that you provide all the detail as required on the form and that the account you nominate is suitable for direct debit.  It is also important that you have sufficient funds in the account on each Thursday's payday.  We have made the first debit on Thursday 26 September 2013 (to line up with that pay day).  It is also important to remember that if you change your account in the future that you fill in another form with your new details on it.  

As you all know the SOU is an industrial body that operates on an honorary basis and as you can imagine this new process will mean a significantly higher workload for some elected officers.  We therefore ask that members are vigilant in submitting their form in line with the requested timeframes thus allowing for a successful transition to the new system.  Members will also be provided with an end of year fees paid statement for taxation purposes. 

Thank you

SOU State Executive

 

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT ARBITRATION COMMENCES

On the 24 and 25 of June 2013, the full bench of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) attended various QFRS workplaces as the first component of Arbitration. An image available here shows the IR Commissioners, along with other involved parties observing a room burn at the Live Fire Campus.

QIRC Hearing dates are set down for 26, 27 & 28 of June 2013, and the full week commencing 26 August 2013.  Subject to how the Arbitration process progresses, further dates may be required.  The SOU are engaged in this process to gain as best as possible wage outcomes for its members, and to positively influence other aspects that continue to impact senior officers.

For further information on current SOU activity please see this Newsletter.

Further information will be provided to members as Arbitration progesses.

Thank you

SOU State Executive 

SOU POSITION ON MALONE REVIEW REPORT

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Senior Officers Union of Employees (SOU) respects the right of Governments to undertake reviews, and as senior officers in the organisation, SOU members have always and will always dutifully implement the government’s strategic goals. The SOU supports continuous improvement through reviews of operations and indeed welcomes the recommended improvements to Rural Operations funding recommended by the Malone Review into Rural Fire Services in Queensland. However, it would be neglectful in the extreme if the SOU did not respond to other structural changes recommended in this report as there are serious implications that present a real risk to the community and safety of emergency service officers.

For over 20 years, volunteers, auxiliary and permanent firefighters have worked together cooperatively under the banner of the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS). This journey has been driven by senior management and has been built on the foundation of mutual respect. The result is a combined, professional service that shares the same operational doctrine, command and control systems and terminology which is all reinforced through joint operations and training. This model is envied by other Australasian Fire Services.

The Malone review has recommended the separation of Rural Operations into a separate autonomous unit. The SOU views this as a retrograde step with enormous potential to undo the close operational cooperation between all firefighters. It also presents a significant risk. One only has to look at the most recent and comprehensive Royal Commission into the Victorian Black Saturday incident to note that the operational shortcomings including lack of leadership, lack of unity of command and duplication of systems and resources were all contributed by the fact that there were 3 separate fire agencies involved in the response (Country Fire Authority, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Metropolitan Fire Brigade). Whilst the Commission was reluctant to recommend the amalgamation of the services into a singular identity in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, it  was noted that there was an obvious trend towards integration and it recommended closer interoperability to position the agencies “to take the next step towards integration” when reviewed 3 years after the report’s submission. It is surprising and concerning that this report did not appear to be referenced or reviewed by the Malone review.

One of the major risks posed by the separation of the services is ambiguous command and control arrangements. Under the current operational directives, the incident controller and incident management team is appointed on the predominant risk (e.g. vegetation fire, fires threatening structures, technical rescues). For example, the first attending and most senior officer present at the emergency incident, being an urban officer for emergencies in an urban area with structures threatened, or a rural officer for emergencies in a rural area, will assume the role of incident controller. Fires occur frequently in the ever increasing urban rural interface (iZone) across boundaries and reverting to a model based simply on a geographic boundary runs the risk of creating two incident management teams managing the same fire. This is a recipe for a disaster. It should also be noted that the current QFRS directive demands that an Incident Management team in an iZone should comprise a balance of rural and urban skilled personnel which is the most effective means of managing such fires. The establishment of such incident management teams is a common occurrence and this was neither recognised nor mentioned in the Malone report.

The SOU refutes many contentions in the report that are presented as fact without any objective analysis. The SOU suggests that this has occurred in due partly to the fact that the urban operational officer first appointed to the review team was removed without explanation. Further, there is a number of highly insulting and derogatory comments in relation to urban officers that indicate the partiality and bias of the review including:

p.9 The urban interference in rural fire events
p.9 …There is no shortage of urban staff to interfere in rural fires
p.12 Inexperience by urban controllers of fire weather and fire behaviour

The SOU believe that these comments are not the feelings of the majority of volunteers that work cooperatively with urban staff regularly and misconstrue the collaborative operations that occur frequently throughout Queensland. The provision of additional staff to participate in incident management teams to major events is not a unique situation for rural fires.  It is common for this to occur from one geographic region to another during major disasters (e.g. flooding events) and provides an incident management capacity commensurate with the complexity of the incident. This is essential not only for the safe management of the incident but also for reporting to government with timely and accurate information. In addition, the above comments are insulting and do not reflect the professionalism and high degree of training urban officers complete across a range of disciplines including vegetation fires and incident management training.

It is interesting to note that the annual fire reports indicate that urban operational staff (with only a tenth of the number of firefighters compared to rural volunteers) attends approximately three times more vegetation fire incidents than rural brigades. This fact is not intended to detract from the experience and expertise of volunteers, but it does demonstrate the report’s inference that urban officers are inexperienced in vegetation fires as being completely false and without foundation.

As previously stated, the SOU is in agreement with any changes that provide a stronger funding base for rural brigades which do not decrease the current urban funding. (Note: QFRS per capita is currently the most economical fire service in the country - P260 Vol 3 Queensland Commission of Audit 2013). However, there are several other recommendations in this report that need much more objective analysis. These include:

• Recommending that rural operations seek an external Registered Training Organisation (RTO) whilst QFRS is already an accredited and well respected RTO that has just received re-accreditation; and
• Recommending the establishment of an autonomous State Emergency Service with its own Deputy Commissioner without any details of consultation with Emergency Management Queensland or Local Government Association of Queensland.

Local rural brigades and districts operating under an autonomous hierarchical model shall develop an inconsistent and uncoordinated response capability in isolation, to larger scale incidents (not just wildfire) without the benefits of urban integration, experience and input. (P16 Urban need Rural & Rural need Urban).

In the terms of reference for the Ministerial Review into the Rural Fire Service it stated that “risk management remains paramount” and that “the implications and risks of proposed options are to be fully addressed.” It is the SOU contention that this has not been achieved and that there is significant risk if there is a move to separate rural operations as an autonomous unit distinct from urban operations. Experience has shown that the most effective means of collaborative joint operations with common command systems and terminology is delivered by a singular service model. This has been demonstrated by QFRS for the previous 20 years and reinforced in several high profile commissions of inquiry. It is noted that the press release for the report stated that the “recommendations in the report which dealt with structural changes would be considered in context of the review into Police and Emergency Services currently being conducted by Mr Michael Keelty.” It is hoped that both the government and the Keelty review addresses this issue and recognises the strength of maintaining the singular service of QFRS incorporating volunteers, auxiliary and permanent firefighters with common systems and processes.

As mentioned above, QFRS senior officers will continue to perform their duties diligently and responsibly however we urge the Government to consider the recommendations carefully, as the effect on safety, effectiveness and efficiency will potentially have a considerably long lasting and detrimental impact on the people of Queensland communities.

This position statement is approved for release by the SOU State Executive.

The following links (external to and independent of the SOU) are available for interested parties:

http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/queensland-government-don-t-implement-all-of-the-malone-review

https://www.facebook.com/onefireservice