CODE 2, VOL 34, NO 58 : 06 november 2020
Late last month, I reported to you that the QIRC had issued a decision to modify your award, based on the joint application made by your union and Fire and Rescue.
This marks the end of a long process in which your union and fire and rescue reviewed your award line by line and carefully rewrote large sections of it.
The objective of this review process was to correct errors and expand the content in your Award to reflect the terms and conditions of your employment that have previously been fought for and won by your union.
It was not open to us to make any further claims or otherwise bargain for improvements to pay or conditions. However, we consider it to be an important achievement, because the new award contains a lot of new content that safeguards your longstanding and hard fought conditions.
The final Award has now been published by the QIRC and is available to download from the UFUQ website.
Your award contains the minimum terms and conditions of employment for firefighters and fire communications officers employed by QFES. It should be read in conjunction with your certified agreement (CA), though the provisions of the CA will prevail if there are any inconsistencies.
The CA is an agreement reached between your union and QFES, and it is up for renegotiation every three years. However, the Award is an instrument that is created and controlled by the QIRC.
The terms and conditions of employment contained in the Award are therefore more difficult to change, and so are arguably better protected.
As you may remember, the 2012-2015 LNP state government led by Campbell Newman led a process called ‘award modernisation’ that aimed to strip content out of awards, under the guise of streamlining and simplifying the IR system. Luckily, we managed to avoid the worst of this.
However, there was still some damage done because the QIRC insisted on inserting standardised clauses on things such as annual leave and public holidays, which do not reflect how we have always done things.
Because of this, your award was riddled with irrelevant and inconsistent content, and some clauses (e.g. annual leave and public holidays) totally failed to reflect the conditions and entitlements as they apply and have always applied.
Below is a summary of the key changes you will notice in the new award. Our focus was to fix errors and safeguard (‘lock in’) current conditions and entitlements.
1. Insertion of 10/14 roster as default roster
The 10/14 roster has been in operation for over three decades. While there was mention of it in the previous award, there was no detail about how it operated or what conditions and entitlements were associated with it.
We have now significantly expanded the hours of work section to include a detailed explanation of the roster and how it operates. We have also used relevant language such as ‘shift’ and ‘platoon’, to replace the standardised and ill-suited public service language.
2. Insertion of 8 hours additional and other Public Holiday entitlements
For at least 20 years, you have been entitled to claim 8 hours ordinary pay when rostered off on a public holiday. This has not previously been written anywhere, but it is now protected in the Award.
We have also provided direction on the entitlements associated with the Queen’s Birthday public holiday and the new Christmas Eve part-day public holiday.
3. Annual leave
The Award has been updated to reflect your actual entitlement to annual leave (including core leave, accrued leave and additional leave). This links in with the new schedule in CA19 that clarifies the rotating leave roster, and the entitlements and conditions associated with that longstanding practice.
Previously, the award contained the blatantly incorrect entitlement to leave as a flat 200 hours.
4. Long standing allowances locked in
The UFUQ pushed for a range of industrial entitlements that are longstanding and settled to be written into the award. Some of these provisions previously existed only in the CA or in employer policies, and some have never been properly recorded before.
You will notice that the “allowances” section has been expanded to include an updated clause for Aerial appliance allowance and a new clause for 38-hour week allowance (which includes the additional superannuation for this allowance).
5. Rest and recline
The ability for firefighters and station officers to rest and recline during night shifts when there is no work to be done is a longstanding fatigue management practice. It has not previously been set out as an entitlement in any industrial instrument, but it is now locked down through both your CA and your Award.
6. Clarification of errors and of best practice
A few of the award clauses contained errors or inconsistencies when compared to other awards within the Queensland Industrial Relations system.
For example, QFES really ought to be giving a minimum of 14 days’ notice to members if they are required to change shifts, rosters, or to come off shift to attend training. QFES agreed with us to strengthen the language around this.
There was previously an error in the award that meant that employees who perform overtime between their night shifts weren’t entitled to a 10-hour break before restarting work, as they are in all other circumstances. This has now been fixed, and members in these circumstances will be entitled to OT until they have had their 10-hour break. We anticipate that this correction will encourage QFES to ensure that fatigue breaks are respected and upheld in rostering practices.
Another example is the Sunday OT rate for day workers, which was previously less than the penalty rate for ordinary work on a Sunday. This has now been changed so that day workers are paid double time from hour 1 whenever they perform overtime on a Sunday.
The Award has been updated to clarify that you can only be asked to provide evidence (med cert/stat dec) for carer’s leave or sick leave if you take more than 2 days in a row.
We’ve also expanded the leave entitlements to protect important provisions from the CA including pro rata access to long service leave after 7 years, access to long service leave at half pay and recrediting of leave when ill on annual or long service leave.
I would encourage you to download or print out the new Award and familiarise yourself with the content. This is now the enforceable minimum standard of terms and conditions of your employment and can be relied upon.
John Oliver - General Secretary
Authorised by John Oliver General Secretary
United Firefighters' Union of Australia, Union of Employees QLD