BULLETIN


Bulletin No: 069                 Volume: 24            Wednesday 18 April 2018

 To: All UFU MEMBERS

 

MFB PURSUE ANTI-UNION, ANTI-FIREFIGHTER CULTURE

 

WITH MFB CHIEF OFFICER/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER APPOINTMENT

 

MERSEYSIDE FIRE CHIEF’S HISTORY OF

FIREFIGHTER CUTS & UNION-BUSTING TACTICS

 

MERSEYSIDE FIRE DEATHS DOUBLE UNDER

FIRE CHIEF DAN STEPHENS TENURE

 

Members are advised that the UFU is gravely concerned about the quasi-announcement of the new MFB CFO/CEO.

 On Tuesday the British press were announcing that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service Fire Chief Dan Stephens had resigned to take up the new MFB role.   We would assume he had the MFB Board’s approval to do so yet no announcement was made to MFB employees or the UFU.

 We are surprised that a Labor Andrews Government would support the appointment of Mr Stephens who has reportedly been party to union-busting tactics.

 This is a low point for union relations with the Andrews Government and will be a defining moment in the short and long term relationship.

 The UFU has serious concerns about the appropriateness of the appointment as we do not want to import the British fire services culture of forfeiting safe working conditions and firefighter positions for pecuniary purposes.  As Chair of the International Fire Fighters Unions Alliance (Global Alliance of firefighters’ unions) I have been keep informed of the drastic measures being undertaken in United Kingdom and fire services management using budget cuts to union-bust.

 Dan Stephens is reported to have boasted that 100 union members were breaching industrial action that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was taking to stop savage cuts that would put the public and firefighters’ lives at great risk.  He was reported to make divide and conquer comments claiming that more union members would strike-break.   Merseyside management later boasted it was on a union-breaking mission by privately funding the legal cases of a handful of Merseyside FBU members who had been expelled for breaching union policy.

 We do not want to import into our fire services the union-busting, budget-breaking culture that has taken precedence over safe systems of work in the United Kingdom.

 The UFU was assured that the union would be consulted prior to any appointment.  The MFB Board and the Andrews Government had repeatedly made statements about building positive relationships and undoing the damage of the past.   The UFU was not consulted and is yet to be officially informed that Mr Stephens has been appointed. 

 MFB President Jasmine Doak and Acting CEO Alex Cockram were both on the selection panel for the recruitment of the newly established MFB Chief Officer/CEO position.       It is clear that Jasmine Doak and Alex Cockram are seeking to use the appointment of the new MFB Chief Officer/Chief Executive Officer to reinforce the anti-union, anti-employee culture.

 This is a breach of any trust the UFU was attempting to build with the MFB and the Andrews Government.  In recent times we have been working towards a more positive relationship in a bid to end the disputation.  But this underhanded behaviour to continue the current culture of disputation with career firefighters demonstrates clearly that the MFB have been completely disingenuous in its claims of wanting a positive and productive relationship with career firefighters and their union.  

 Savage budget cuts in the UK has seen station closures, firefighters been made redundant and the loss of major terms and conditions of employment.   

 It is being claimed that Mr Stephens spoke out against budget cuts.   The reality is that Mr Stephens used the budget cuts to promote union busting.

 

 Here is a snapshot of his industrial relations history:

 Dan Stephens has risen through the ranks at Merseyside in his 28-year career. 

 

  • In 2005 he was promoted to Area Manager with responsibility for Operational Preparedness and Resilience.

 

  • In 2006 Merseyside firefighters had no option but to take industrial action including short stoppages against plans to make 120 firefighters redundant and reduce night shifts to just one engine for the whole of the Liverpool City centre. 

 

·         At the time Dan Stephens was Merseyside Area Commander displayed his anti-union sentiment slamming the industrial action and claiming 100 union members would not take part in the industrial action and was reported as stating “that number will increase when they realise they are not achieving anything from their action.”

 

·         Merseyside was later to boast it had reduced firefighter numbers between 1997 and 2007 by 38 percent cutting 1500 full time firefighter positions to 880.  In doing so “Low Level Activity and Response” (LLAR) stations were established with a voluntary duty system.

 

·         This was not just about budget cuts – this was also about union -busting.

 

·         In 2006 Fire Brigades Union Secretary Matt Wrack congratulated the Merseyside union members for their stance and the return to work settlement they achieved after taking strike action.  He stated:

 

It is clear to anyone who bothers to look that they faced not just a direct attack in terms of cuts but also an agenda based on attempting to divide and attack the Fire Brigades Union itself. To their enormous credit, the Merseyside members stood firm in the face of this and in the face of provocative and intimidatory tactics.”

 

  • In 2007 Merseyside Fire and Rescue Management promoted its “process evolution” policy which included:

 

  • Not dispatching a pumper to all fires and instead commissioned “Small Fire Units” that only transported a maximum of three firefighters
  • Responding firefighters on motorbikes to businesses during office hours on the basis “incident patterns” had shown a high occurrence of false alarms during those hours
  • Smashing roster systems to reduce firefighters using “voluntary” rosters during pre-determined “quiet periods”
  • Attempting to coerce firefighters from using personal leave.  Firefighters who had a perfect attendance record were put in an annual draw to win a new car.

 

  • In 2010 the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority held a meeting to privatise 7 Merseyside Fire and Rescue stations.  Dan Stephens was named in the Minutes as one of the senior operational staff to “be authorised to take all necessary action in connection with the agreements”

 

  • Later that year (2010) Dan Stephens was appointed Assistant Chief Fire Officer and then appointed Chief Fire Officer in 2011.

 

  • In 2014 Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had stations unstaffed due to lack of available firefighters through £20 million ($36.8 million AUD) budget cuts and attrition.   Merseyside had lost 286 firefighters in the previous four years and stations closed with insufficient crews on roster.

 

  • In 2015 Fire Chief Dan Stephens did not fight the cuts and was quoted as stating “These cuts are compromising the safety of the public on Merseyside – But we have no control on government spending”.

 

  • In 2016 it was reported that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service had lost almost a quarter of its full time firefighter positions since 2010 and 5 fire stations had closed. Across England full time firefighter positions had dropped approximately 16 percent.

 

  • In 2016 it was also reported that the number of fire deaths had doubled in Merseyside during four years of Mr Stephens’ tenure.

 

Members are urged to attend a Special General Meeting to be updated on recent decisions by the MFB Board President Jasmine Doak and Acting CEO Alex Cockram’s which continue to attack firefighters’ terms and conditions of employment, and their future safety at work.

 

Despite the changes to the MFB Board and Executive Leadership Team the anti-union, anti-employee culture is still prevailing within the MFB:

 

  1. The MFB continues to use lawyers that were involved in the years of litigation against operational staff and the UFU including orchestrating the MFB’s unsuccessful attempt to terminate the Operational Staff and ACFO Agreements in 2014.

 

  1. Members were notified last month when the MFB Board President Jasmine Doak attempted to re-write the agreed MFB UFU Operational Staff Agreement 2016 through the explanatory memorandum that is distributed with the agreement when sent to employees for vote.

 

  1. The MFB was required to file a statutory declaration with its application to the Fair Work Commission to approve the MFB UFU Operational Staff Agreement 2016.  Instead of clearly and strongly supporting the agreement, the MFB’s statutory declaration left it open for the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate.

 

Members are reminded to attend the Special General Meeting to be fully briefed on the ramifications of this appointment and MFB persistent culture of disputation.

  

SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING

MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA AUDITORIUM

46-54 Ireland St, West Melbourne VIC 3003

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018

9:30am AND 7:30pm

 Strength in Unity
READ OUT AT MUSTER AND PIN ON NOTICE BOARD

Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary