Many people are now aware that a policy exists basically stating that if a firefighter is unwell and cannot come to work then there is a chance that a Fire and Rescue NSW fire station may be closed for the day. Previously an off duty firefighter would be recalled allowing the fire station to remain open.
Fire and Rescue NSW has relieving firefighters, these firefighters are mobile and fill in the gaps as required, most often to cover Annual Leave or sick leave. All relieving firefighters are utilized before any off duty firefighters are recalled to ensure any overtime is kept to a minimum.
The Commissioner is on record as saying that the number of relieving firefighters employed should cover all Annual Leave and a “reasonable” level off sick leave, and generally it does.
Is this the perfect system? For the 1970‘s maybe. While still a surprise to some, most would realize that all fire services in the world now employee female firefighters. A funny thing about females, some of them have babies.
Unfortunately fire services are hit hard when it comes to maternity leave costs. Firstly, when a firefighter takes maternity leave she must be replaced. There is a requirement to have 4 firefighters on the truck, in many jobs maternity leave can be covered by remaining staff but that does not apply for firefighting. Secondly, due to the nature of firefighting females who are employed are required to sign a maternity clause. The section that applies states that when a firefighter falls pregnant she must be placed on light duties. The end result is that a female firefighter who falls pregnant will need to be replaced utilizing either a relieving firefighter or a firefighter on overtime for well over a year.
We can all see the problem here. Female firefighters are relatively new and there has been no increase in the number of relief firefighters to cover maternity/light duty leave. A relief firefighter that may have previously covered 10 firefighters leave over a 12 month period is now required to cover leave for just one firefighter (pregnant) over the same period.
This is where Barry O’Farrell comes in. At a time when the State Government is encouraging Fire and Rescue NSW to employ more females he refuses to increase the budget to cover the rise in maternity costs. His office is aware of the issue, but not only is he not increasing the budget, he is slashing it.
So what is the answer, there in no room in the budget for overtime, and employing more staff is out, in fact Fire and Rescue NSW may be required to reduce their staff in the near future. The only answer left is that they must close fire stations.
Barry O’Farrell, this is disgusting. The budget for Fire and Rescue NSW must be increased in line with Maternity/Light duty needs. You have a moral responsibility to do so.