AUXILIARY UPDATE : 29 may 2017

QFES concedes UFUQ is correct in 'Retention Allowance' dispute.

You are no doubt aware that your union and QFES have been in dispute over QFES’s failure to comply with clause 15.4 of the Auxiliary Firefighters’ Award – State 2016 (the award).

I am pleased to provide this update to you of the dispute and the outcomes.

In late 2016, your union commenced discussions with QFES about their methodology for calculating the payment of the retention allowances under clause 15.4 of the award. Those allowances relate to attendance at scheduled weekly training, and attendance at call-outs.

You can read the current version of the award here

The award clearly states at clause 15.4 that the training retention allowance will be paid to any auxiliary firefighter who attends at least 75% of scheduled weekly training.

Last year, QFES advised UFUQ that they intended to ignore this clear wording, and instead calculate the allowance on the basis of completion of Core Skills Training Package (CSTP) modules.

Your union informed QFES that we disputed that incorrect methodology and that they would be in breach of the award should they carry through with their plan.  This dispute went on for some months, and your union asked that QFES refrain from paying the allowance based on their incorrect methodology until the dispute was resolved - to avoid confusion, and potential underpayment and overpayment claims.

QFES made the decision to apply the methodology they had chosen and a payment was made to a group of auxiliary firefighters.

QIRC Dispute:
As a result of this alleged breach by QFES, and our unsuccessful attempts over some months to negotiate, your union was left with no alternative but to lodge a dispute with the industrial relations commission, the QIRC.

On Wednesday 24 May 2017, a dispute conciliation conference was held.  Both sides presented their points of view on how clause 15.4 of the award ought to be applied.

QFES concede UFUQ is correct:
As expected, QFES conceded to the commission that the UFUQ interpretation of clause 15.4 of the award is correct.

In fact, QFES conceded the following –

1. ‘The Fire Service is prepared to concede for the purposes of this dispute the UFUs interpretation of the award clause 15.4.  That is, that the retention allowance is payable for … attendance at at least 75 per cent of scheduled weekly training and not 75 per cent of the core skills training.’

2. ‘A broadcast email [is] to be circulated to auxiliary firefighters calling for those who believe that they meet the requirements to notify a designated contact person and it is anticipated that such an email, should approval be given, be circulated within the next two weeks.’

3. ‘People will also be given a timeframe within which to nominate for their entitlement.’

4. ‘The Fire Service has also indicated that it is not their intention to seek to recover any payments which have been made to those people who have been paid for 75 per cent of core skills training and who may not now meet the interpretation of the award provision.’

5. ‘The Fire Service has also committed to find a means to measure attendance at weekly training going forward.’

Where to from here:
You should expect to receive an email from the Commissioner sometime in the next fortnight, explaining the situation and the process going forward.

If you attended at least 75% of scheduled drill nights last year, but you DID NOT receive the retention allowance in February, you will be eligible for the payment. You will need to contact QFES (they will provide details in their email) so that they can substantiate your claim.

If you did receive a payment in February, but you don’t think you attended 75% of training nights, QFES have assured us that they will not seek to recover this money from you.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all members who assisted the union throughout the course of this dispute.

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