CODE 2, VOL 30, NO 26 : 24 june 2016

QFES launch plan to minimise Fire Communications staffing and locations

I have suspected for some time that QFES have been planning a restructure of Fire Communications in Queensland.  However, I have been waiting for evidence to emerge that would confirm this suspicion.

On 21 June 2016, I received this evidence in writing for the first time.  It appears that QFES have spent many months secretly putting together a detailed plan which seeks to make significant workplace change within Fire Communications.

To date, your union has never been consulted on this plan despite it directly affecting the work you do on a day to day basis.

So, upon receiving the hard evidence of QFES’s plan, I immediately wrote to the Commissioner requiring an urgent meeting to consult with your union.

That meeting is to occur on Friday 24 June 2016 at QFES Kedron.

Following that meeting, I will issue another Code 2 on this matter, explaining what QFES told me and what they propose, and what your union intends to do to ensure all Fire Communication member's rights are protected.

Fire Communications Officers' vital work assists both professional and auxiliary firefighters' ability to do their job properly and safely and therefore the restructure of Fire Communications affects all of our FCO members, and all of our firefighter members.

On many occasions in the past four years I have communicated to you in Code 2’s and also in the end of year reports that I have been aware of the long held desire within many of QFES management to close down Fire Communication locations.

Evidence can be found wherever you look, including within the now infamous and totally discredited waste of Queenslander’s money, the Keelty Report, which was a cut and paste of many long-term QFES desires, and recommended all Fire Communications locations close, but for two.

Evidence that demonstrates QFES longer term plans to close locations still exists and includes –
• the ongoing refusal to upgrade locations to meet the already identified increasing demand, and
• only employing casuals wherever possible, and
• refusal to make many employees permanent (in direct conflict with current government policy),          leaving them on long-term contracts for many years, so they can be sacked when the time is right.

It all points to QFES's rather transparent plan to gut and then close down locations.

Recent QFES announcements about ‘upgrades’ to Fire Communications locations are also not what they appear.  There are no expansions, there is no preparation for any increase in workload, there is only maintenance, painting, and little refurbishments here and there.

Their plan appears to run locations into the ground, to minimise the work individual locations do, reduce the hours (and then drop some locations to day work only), and minimise numbers on shift wherever possible, to leave some Fire Communications locations open, but either operating minimally, or almost entirely redundant.

The email sent to all Fire Communications Officers on 21 June 2016 states that the objective of the planned restructure of Fire Communications locations is –

“…to outline…a minimum Communications Centre staffing model that can support GWN Operations…”

The email from QFES reinforces the focus on minimum numbers on shift and importantly, bases the whole concept on identifying budgetary ‘positives’ arising from the GWN implementation in QFES.

We all know this process was always, in part, reliant on the very expensive and problematic GWN being implemented and working properly.

I have communicated to you, in recent Code 2’s, your union’s work with QFES to identify how to best work with GWN.  To their credit, those within QFES with the responsibility for implementation of the GWN have openly consulted with your union on the problems with the system and we are working together positively to develop solutions.

This open and consultative approach on GWN is in sharp contrast to the secretive approach those responsible for the Fire Communications plan have maintained up to this point, completely disregarding the opportunity to have your union work with QFES.

The push to rely on the GWN as justification for secretly developing a plan for gutting Fire Communication locations appears to now be rolling out, blind to the obvious problems that will arise from this plan, and the failure to consult with your union.

The QFES knows they cannot just come out and announce that they are shutting down Fire Communications locations.  They would have watched and learned when the QPS attempted to close a Police Communication location in Ipswich in SEQ.

The massive backlash and political damage this caused will have taught QFES that they cannot close down Fire Communication locations easily, and their plan is clearly one that will cause locations to wither on the vine until someone identifies the savings in simply picking them off.

We will be doing all we can to preserve the vital work all Fire Communications Officers do, to protect and improve their employment and, to ensure the continuing safe and effective response and interaction between our professional and auxiliary firefighter members and our Fire Communications Officer members during emergency incidents.

I am sure all professional and auxiliary firefighters will support your union’s efforts to ensure the future of Fire Communications locations and FCO’s.

I will report on the outcomes of the first meeting with QFES and undertake to keep you all regularly informed as this matter evolves.