CODE 2, VOL 34, NO 35 : 11 august 2020

FIRE & RESCUE OUTSOURCE STATION OFFICER RECRUITMENT PROCESS TO ROBOTS

You may be aware that Fire and Rescue is currently experimenting with rolling out a state-wide recruitment campaign to fill 26 vacant SO roles across 5 regions.

After listening to your experiences, the state office considers that this experiment has been a total failure.

SO recruitment processes are normally conducted in region, with some central oversight.

But what Fire and Rescue didn’t tell us is that once they’d received all the applications, they decided not to do what you’d naturally expect is their job. Instead it was decided, without consulting the union, to send all the applications off to an external recruitment consultancy agency, to decide which SFFs and LFFs would make the best SOs or SOSOs, based on their written answers to 3 questions.

These consultants claim to specialise in “talent solutions” through data-based decision making, predictive analytics, personality quizzes and artificial intelligence.  These consultants are not firefighters, they’ve probably never even set foot in a station. 

Yet your employer is allowing themselves to be told who is best to lead a crew at a station by a robot with a secret algorithm.

Some members of regional recruitment panels have tried to challenge the decision of the robot, sending requests for state to reconsider the culling of applicants before they’ve even progressed to interview. But at the state level, Fire and Rescue have refused to reconsider, preferring the cold calculation of their robot consultant over the operational experience and local knowledge of the regional panel members.

As well as being ridiculously unfit for purpose, the cost of outsourcing this work to a private consultancy company is utterly unjustifiable in the current COVID environment. The State Government decided that our wages would be frozen for the good of the Queensland Economy, yet Fire and Rescue appear to think it’s reasonable to allow this exorbitant waste on a service that is not at all fit for purpose, and that could easily be performed by existing staff.

Perhaps the external robot consultants are well placed to determine public servant recruitment, but they have no experience within an F&R context. They simply do not know what our job requires, at a station, on a truck, at an incident.

Every day, we rely on our crews and our officers, on mutual trust and effective teamwork. Our officers have always been selected, not just for their technical ability, values and intelligence, but also for their leadership skills, teamwork and honour.

Only firefighters know what makes a good officer, and something this important cannot be left to an algorithm.

Your union is doing what we can to ensure this never happens again.  I have a meeting scheduled with the Commissioner to discuss this process and what can be done to reverse the errors and then what can be done to ensure all future processes are operationally focussed for all rank progression decisions, including senior officer appointments (decisions about firefighters should be made by firefighters). And, we’ve made sure the State Government is aware that this outsourcing of recruitment is an inappropriate waste of taxpayer funding and firmly against the public interest.

John Oliver - General Secretary

Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary 
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD