Please find the signed financial report and disclosure report for the 2021-22 financial year below:
The Firefighting Industry Agreement expired in June 2021 and negotiations have not significantly progressed. Tasmanian Firefighters are the lowest paid in Australia. While bills are going up by more than 5%, the Tasmanian government is offering Firefighters 2.35% and 2.5% over two years.
Firefighters have asked the Premier to intervene in negotiations and he has not accepted our invitation to meet.
Firefighters are taking action to get negotiations moving forward. The list of current industrial activities in place are listed below:
[All bans are currently suspended]
- Displaying of UFU or campaign clothing/merch
- Distribution of UFU materials during work time
- Leaving campaign materials at public venues
- Adjusting email signature to include campaign message
- No maintenance of hose
- No TOIL or 1am payments for training for operational capabilities
- No Casual Training Instruction
- Claim overtime for handover at start or end of shift
- Work to rule, claim all allowances, take breaks on time
- No Fire Reports, or AIRS Reports
- No off the desk side projects
- No working shifts at other brigades
- Making comment about TFS/DPFEM to public or media
- No working rostered shifts by NRSW to provide coverage between Mon – Fri (normal hours)
- No briefing notes to DPFEM/Government (including participation for promotional material)
- No facilitating the TasGRN project, attendance at workshops is permitted at this stage
- No participating in multi-agency or external exercises where TFS is not the lead agency
- No participation in Come and Try Days from 4 July 2022
- No external training delivery to Tasmanian government agencies or organisations (Health exempt)
- No practice evacuations
- No Remote Area Team preparation activities, including medicals, fitness and training
- Writing, displaying or maintaining campaign messages on TFS/DPFEM vehicles
- No resetting the fire alarm panel at the following locations:
- Parliament of Tasmania
- 15 Murray Street, Hobart
- No Acting Up, only members with recognised fixed term contracts in place as of 12 August 2022 will continue to act up (no promulgation). This ban does not apply where the overtime list has been exhausted and the person acting up would be entitled to overtime payment.
- All work is restricted on shift except maintaining operational readiness, emergency response, and fire investigation
- No participation in volunteer support, such as award ceremonies and training delivery other than to maintain operational readiness
- No delivery of specialist discipline training, including all training listed as electives in the pay point training schedule
- No on call DO/SO
- No arranging Ministerial visits to TFS facilities
- No sending media releases
- No answering media enquiries
- No following up alarm fault
- No building audits
- No work other than CORs and COORs
In 2006, TFS reduced superannuation payments for new employees to the minimum superannuation guarantee level, which at the time of writing is now 10%.
TFS employees generally fall into one of three categories with regard to superannuation.
Employed before 1999 defined benefits scheme, which had contributions of 14% comprised of an existing 11% contribution and an additional 3% paid in super with was gained by trading off a pay rise in the 80s.
People who were employed between 1999 and 2006 or people who partly opted out of the defined benefit scheme received 14%, with 11% contribution to the defined benefit scheme and 3% being contributed to an accumulation fund if the employee also contributed 2%.
People who were employed after 2006 receive the superannuation guarantee rate, currently 10% contribution to their chosen accumulation fund. These employees do not have the option to contribute 2% and receive an additional 3% in employer contributions.
It should be noted that not all TFS personnel fall into one of these two categories, but the vast majority of members do.
The 5% reduction in superannuation accumulation means Firefighters cannot afford to retire early as they have done in the past. Unfortunately, Firefighters are rarely able to continue to effectively perform fire fighting and rescue duties right up to the age of 67, which means there is an emerging generation of Firefighters who will not be able to work to 67 and also will not have enough superannuation to retire early.
Firefighters should not be forced to retire into poverty.
Fixing the Issue
While TFS has not yet made a commitment to find other work for Firefighters who are no longer able to work on the front line, the only viable solution is to restore higher superannuation payments.
The superannuation guarantee (the minimum super payment) is legislated under federal law. The Public Sector Superannuation Reform Act 2016 (Tas) requires that the minimum payment will be made for State Service employees in Tasmania, with exception for some workers who were employed before 1 March 2006.
This presents two viable options. We can put pressure on the state government to change state legislation or we can put pressure on the federal government to increase the minimum legislated payment for first responders to allow for early retirement due to the physical nature of emergency response.
The EBA provides an opportunity to negotiate an increase to superannuation payments, which depending on the legal status, might need to sit in a separate document. It is expected that the government will not agree to increase superannuation payments unless significant pressure is placed upon them through industrial action and community campaigns.
If members are not able to secure increased superannuation payments in the current EBA negotiations, members should consider that the next EBA will roughly coincide with a state election, which will allow members to apply additional pressure on the government with respect to the superannuation policy and law reform.
The UFU has successfully lobbied Tasmanian Labor and Australian Labor to include increased superannuation for first responders in their respective policy platforms. This does not automatically mean that Labor will implement this into law if they are elected to government, additional lobbying will be required should they win government.
Liberal governments generally oppose increases to superannuation.
The Greens are likely to support changes to superannuation.
Ultimately, for this legislation to pass both houses of parliament, it is likely that we would need to see a Labor government, either with control of the Senate or with cross-bench members in the balance of power who are supportive.
This process would be difficult and we would be very reliant on the support of Fire, Ambulance and Police unions from across the country for support to get this over the line.
UFU Working Group
If you would like to be part of the UFU Super Working Group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Firefighters in other jurisdictions have also seen changes to superannuation benefits as defined benefit schemes were rolled up. Similar jurisdictions like the NT are also on the SG rate, but SA Firefighters get 4% above the SG rate and ACT Firefighters get 2% above the SG rate, with an additional 1% if they contribute 3%.
67 – The Aged Pension eligibility age for those born after 1957. Superannuation can be accessed before this age.
34 – The percentage of Aged Pension recipients who are considered to live in poverty by international standards, with home ownership being a major factor as the need to pay rent greatly reduces disposable income.
60 – The age superannuation can usually be accessed. Superannuation can sometimes be accessed earlier if certain criteria are met regarding financial hardship.
83 – The average life expectancy in Australia is 82.9 years (2019)
38 – The average number of years of service before retiring (SA MFS Firefighter stats 2019)
63 – The average age of retirement is 62.6 (SA MFS Firefighter stats 2019)
20 – The number of years the average Firefighter will rely on superannuation for financial security after retirement. This is also correct as an average for exceptional Firefighters.
6 – The number of years that your super is expected to exceed your life expectancy if you retire at 67. (Australian Super Calculator)
0 – The number of years that your super is expected to exceed you life expectancy if you retire at 63. (Australian Super Calculator)
50 – The percentage of Firefighters starting in the 2021/22 financial year who are expected to run out of super during retirement if they retire at 63 and additional contributions are not made.
10 – The minimum superannuation payment percentage required by state and federal legislation. Note: federal legislation does not prevent higher amounts of superannuation being paid. In Tasmania, it is unclear if legislation allows for higher payments of superannuation and this should be changed so that the legislation clearly allows for higher superannuation to be negotiated in good faith.
Legislation and Useful Links
A number of UFU members have expressed disappointment that they do not see their values reflected by the current group of Labor MPs. The Branch Committee of Management decided that this behavior needs to be called out and that the UFU would write a letter to the State Secretary of Tasmanian Labor and post this letter on our website.
The full letter is available here: http://ufutas.asn.au/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Worker-Values.pdf
Congratulations to those elected to the Branch Committee of Management (BCOM) and thank you to those of you who served during the previous term.
BCOM plays a crucial role in providing strategic direction for the UFU and ensuring that members are at the heart of every decision made.
Please find the 2021 BCOM Election Report here.
What is pfas?
Pfas is a chemical designed to help firefighters suppress fires. Pfas can be found in a range of domestic and industrial settings, including non-stick fry pans, fabric protection and weather-proofing on raincoats.
Pfas is a group of around 3000 chemicals. Currently, we can only test for the presence of 30 pfas variants in the human body.
Why is pfas used for fires?
Pfas is used on flammable liquid fires for its heat resistant qualities. Pfas forms a barrier between the flammable liquid/vapours and the atmosphere, thus breaking the fire triangle by starving the combustion reaction of atmospheric oxygen.
What does pfas mean for my health?
Pfas can enter our body through absorption, inhalation and consumption.
The UFU is working with researchers studying how long pfas remains in the human body and how quickly pfas concentrations can be reduced.
Scientists cannot conclusively find a direct link between pfas contamination and ill health, but there is strong correlatory evidence that has prompted the commissioning of further research.
Evidence suggests that pfas may contribute to:
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Cancers, in particular prostate cancer
- Decreased fertility
- Increased risk of asthma
- Liver damage
- Birth defects
- Behavioural problems in children from contaminated parent/s
Should Firefighters be tested for pfas contamination?
Yes, the UFU recommends that every Firefighter has regular blood tests to measure the concentration of pfas.
As pfas is a widely recognised occupational hazard for Firefighters, your employer should be providing a regular system of blood testing.
How long does pfas last in the environment?
That is a big question, pfas is a persistent chemical meaning they endure and last in the environment after release and they are also bioaccumulative, therefore the concentration continually increases in the environment as they are used.
These chemicals will flow in streams and creeks and alarmingly they access the water table, increasing at the same time, which can be devastating for any downstream food producing enterprises.
Pfas has far reaching effects on the enviroment with pfas being able to travel in dust and water which impacts plants and wildlife. It is known that bears in the arctic have high levels of contamination.
Has anybody in Australia been compensated for pfas contamination?
Yes, there have been several claims made and compensation or settlements have been agreed for individual claims, including claims related to relocation of a family home or for a reduction of property value.
Have TFS taken adequate action to protect Firefighters?
Pfas is found in B-class foam Tridol 3-6%. Widespread use of this foam was discontinued in every other state of Australia years ago, but continues to be used in Tasmania.
TFS is supposed to be working toward replacing B-class pfas foam, but the relevant working group has not met for some time.
TFS has not implemented a system of blood testing to monitor the concentration of pfas in Firefighters.
Tasmanian Firefighters’ have been left in the dark on their health and forced to continue using a foam that puts their own health at risk while they work to protect the Tasmanian community.
What is your union doing on pfas?
The UFUA has been at the forefront of pfas research and lobbying. The UFUA has been involved in international forums raising and regulating the use of pfas to protect Firefighters and communities impacted by pfas contamination.
In Tasmania, the UFUA is lobbying the TFS to move toward a new B class foam system and to get members blood tested.
We are currently waiting on the results of a world first study into pfas contamination in firefighters and the reduction of pfas in the body, the results will be out soon.
The UFUA has a range of chemists and scientists working collaboratively with our national office to provide cutting edge expertise and advice.
We will keep you up to date on any progress. Please speak with your workplace rep if you have any questions.
Related Article: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-24/report-into-cfa-fiskville-training-facility-tabled-in-parliament/7440840
Finance and disclosure reports are available below:
The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (Tas) contain a default WHS Issue Resolution Process that must be followed unless another compliant process is agreed upon.
Summary of Default Procedure:
- This applies where there is disagreement regarding WHS, including action taken when a hazard or incident report is submitted. It’s important to include the following details about any WHS issues raised:
- Details of the issue
- The nature and scope of the issue
- Once a report has been submitted, all parties (this means the worker, their HSR, the UFU, TFS and DPFEM) must meet or communicate as soon as reasonably possible to try to resolve the issue. The parties must consider:
- The urgency of the issue
- The number and location of people affected or potentially affected
- The severity of the risk
- What measures should be put in place to resolve the issue – both temporarily and permanently
- Who is responsible for implementing those measures
- A request for the resolution to be recorded in writing, documenting how the above has been taken into consideration, cannot be denied and must be provided to all parties
- If an agreement cannot be reached, negotiations can continue or any party can contact WorkSafe Tasmania for mediation and potentially to make a determination on the issue.
Default Procedure outlined in the WHS Regulations:
23. Default procedure
(1) This regulation sets out the default procedure for issue resolution for the purposes of section 81(2) of the Act.
(2) Any party to the issue may commence the procedure by informing each other party –
(a) that there is an issue to be resolved; and
(b) the nature and scope of the issue.
(3) As soon as parties are informed of the issue, all parties must meet or communicate with each other to attempt to resolve the issue.
(4) The parties must have regard to all relevant matters including the following:
(a) the degree and immediacy of risk to workers or other persons affected by the issue;
(b) the number and location of workers and other persons affected by the issue;
(c) the measures (both temporary and permanent) that must be implemented to resolve the issue;
(d) who will be responsible for implementing the resolution measures.
(5) A party may, in resolving the issue, be assisted or represented by a person nominated by the party.
(6) If the issue is resolved, details of the issue and its resolution must be set out in a written agreement if any party to the issue requests this.
Under the Act, parties to an issue include not only a person conducting a business or undertaking, a worker and a health and safety representative, but also representatives of these persons (see section 80 of the Act).
(7) If a written agreement is prepared all parties to the issue must be satisfied that the agreement reflects the resolution of the issue.
(8) A copy of the written agreement must be given to –
(a) all parties to the issue; and
(b) if requested, to the health and safety committee for the workplace.
(9) To avoid doubt, nothing in this procedure prevents a worker from bringing a work health and safety issue to the attention of the worker’s health and safety representative.