Australian and New Zealand firefighters hold joint conference

Posted: December 21, 2014 by Admin in At the coalface, Firefighters, Unions - Australia, Unions - NZ, Workers' rights

bboydy Susanne Kemp

About 80 delegates from the NZ Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) and the United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA) met over several days in Auckland in the first week of December, sharing knowledge and building up ties of mutual awareness and solidarity.

The conference noted that the challenges facing firefighters and the two unions, in terms of working conditions, are similar. At the same time, firefighters enjoy what the unions call “political capital”, most particularly public admiration and support. This makes the dirty work of governments and top management just that bit harder and the ability of firefighters to defend and improve conditions just that bit easier.

Resolutions adopted in relation to work included for the NZPFU to get the Fire Service to agree to fireighters having more flexibility with taking pro-rata leave, renegotiate the “Hours of Duty” policy to include the provision of a “clean slate” with regards to the hours worked after a 24 hour break from duty and that there be a comprehensive medical insurance package for employees and/or families of the NZ Fire Service personnel.

The conference heard how in Australia firefighters are facing attacks on superannuation and the contracting out of all Defence firefighting to the private sector and also how British firefighters’ existing pensions are under attack.

The co-operation of firefighters at a trans-Tasman level is also an important part of building the firefighters’ Global Alliance. It would be a step forward for other unions to hold such trans-Tasman conferences, especially since the issues workers face are similar. And, in both countries, workers are continually fed a divisive political diet of petty nationalism around imports and exports and who is supposedly buying up what land here and there, all to keep us lined up behind our own exploiting bosses.

  1. Martin Lees says:

    Firefighters in New Zealand have been the only union which succeeded to get a citizen’s referendum and then win it (not that the government did anything as a result). That was back in the early 1990s. Firefighters have done OK in defending on-the-job conditions here too, although pay remains an important issue. And firefighters know how to show solidarity with other workers like the Auckland port workers.

    In this country, and in Australia, and in Britain, firefighters seem to be pretty progressive. Don’t know about other places.