21 Oct 2022

Report lays out path for settlement between firefighters, FENZ

8:43 pm on 21 October 2022
Wellington fire fighter strike

Firefighters on strike earlier this year. Photo: RNZ/ Samuel Rillstone

A report giving final recommendations for the Settlement of a Collective Agreement between Fire and Emergency and the Firefighters Union has been publicly released.

The recommendations were made by mediator and facilitator Graeme Colgan.

Fire and Emergency Chief Executive Kerry Gregory said the recommendations were "a key step towards settling a new collective agreement and rebuilding of trust and confidence with career firefighters and their union."

Read the full report here.

While Union Secretary Wattie Watson said the report gave "some very clear pathways for settlement", but it was also quite a "departure" from the position FENZ had held previously.

FENZ claims unaffordability

In the report Colgan acknowledged FENZ's assertion that it cannot afford the union's current claims, and Gregory said it was "helpful" that the mediator had verified that through an independent financial advisor.

But despite that, Colgan recommended that FENZ secures additional funding so it extend its expenditure "beyond the extent of its last offer to the Union".

Gregory said this left FENZ in a "dilemma".

"Fire and Emergency can't afford the total cost of the recommendations. We would be spending significantly more each year than we can generate from our current funding.

"This is an obvious challenge for both parties, however we are exploring all our options in this regard."

Strike action goes against recommendations

The report also recommended both the parties consider the recommendations and resume their bargaining by negotiation before resorting to strategies such as industrial action.

But despite receiving the report last week, yesterday the Union gave notice that it intended to stage full strikes between 11am and 12pm on November 4, 7, 11 and 14.

Gregory said he'd hoped the union would respect Colgan's recommendation "that strike strategies should be held off while both parties work through the recommendations and focus on reaching settlement instead of escalating strike action and putting New Zealanders at risk."

But Watson said they wouldn't have had to announce strike action if FENZ had agreed to discuss the report this week as the union had requested.

She also disagreed with FENZ's claim strike action was putting New Zealanders at risk.

She said that FENZ put the lives of the general public at risk every day "by rolling the dice" on insufficient staffing and trucks that could break down on the way to incidents.

Time to come to the table

Watson said the union's members have "had enough" and have put the notice of industrial action on "to put the pressure on FENZ come to the table to offer a reasonable and fair settlement for the collective agreement."

She said the ball was in FENZ's court.

Gregory said their aim continues to be "for a collective agreement that's fair for our professional firefighters, as well as being affordable and sustainable for Fire and Emergency so that our career firefighters can continue to serve our communities."

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