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NZ Firefighters' Union to begin strike action on Monday for better pay and working conditions

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 12 Jun 2022, 2:17pm
NZPFU members start strike action on Monday morning.Photo / NZME
NZPFU members start strike action on Monday morning.Photo / NZME

NZ Firefighters' Union to begin strike action on Monday for better pay and working conditions

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 12 Jun 2022, 2:17pm

Members of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters' Union will start strike action on Monday morning in their fight for reasonable wages and safer working conditions. 

The union said there was currently "a fire crisis" with Fire and Emergency NZ failing to employ sufficient career firefighters and 111 emergency call centre dispatchers to meet minimum staffing. 

This has resulted in the closure of some career stations, fire trucks have been taken offline and firefighters are riding in unsafe short-crews to keep the fire trucks responding. 

"If a fire truck is offline, a truck from further afield responds, costing valuable time. Fenz's own promotional advertising states minutes can be the difference between life and death," the union said in a statement. 

The strike action is largely behind the scenes and will not affect firefighters who will be responding to fires and emergencies and protecting the public as usual. 

The union said firefighters are reporting working extraordinary hours trying to keep the fire trucks responding. 

Although they are employed to work 42 hours a week, it said firefighters are largely working 60–80 hours and some report working 100 hours. 

"Fenz is refusing to acknowledge the crisis and cancelled the April 2022 career firefighter recruit course," the union said. 

"It was recently reported that Fenz firefighters respond to 96 per cent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across New Zealand. Professional career firefighters are co-responded with ambulance to the most life-threatening cases. 

"Some firefighters report routinely attending multiple deaths a shift." 

The union is seeking guaranteed mental health and wellbeing programmes that meet the needs of firefighters and ongoing access to psychological professionals. 

It said all ranks of firefighters are low-paid and that the lower ranks of firefighters are "barely paid the adult minimum wage". 

Members had recently overwhelmingly voted on a strategy of strike action escalation. 

"The NZPFU members have sent a very clear and loud message that Fenz's current offer devalues and disrespects the work they do and the inherent risks to their health, safety and wellbeing," it said. 

"The union has called on Fenz the need to change their approach to the negotiations for a collective agreement and be prepared to negotiate fair wages and safer working conditions." 

The NZPFU represents professional career firefighters, 111 emergency call centre dispatchers, Volunteer Support Officers, community risk reduction and resilience advisors, trainers and other specialist roles.