The New Zealand Fire Service is extremely concerned that the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union has refused to withdraw its industrial action to allow wage negotiations to continue today.
The two parties have been attempting to agree on a new Collective Employment Agreement since December 2008 and good progress has been made on many issues. However they were still some way apart on wage rates when the union began industrial action in July. This was recently escalated to the point where it now has the potential to compromise public safety.
The Fire Service had invited the union to return to the bargaining table and a date was set for today. However, instead of withdrawing its industrial action to allow negotiations to take place in good faith, the union has chosen merely to suspend the action.
Fire Service Director of Human Resources Janine Hearn said "We don't understand why the union has chosen this path as we can only see it as a threat to immediately resume action if talks don't go their way."
The professional firefighters received a four percent pay increase in 2007 and another four percent in 2008. This year, in line with the public sector response to the recession, the Fire Service offer has been carefully crafted to allow for a modest increase with some minor changes to conditions. These offers had not been accepted by the union but Ms Hearn felt the new round of negotiation, with a new offer, would have met with more success.
"So we are very surprised and disappointed with the union's decision not to end its industrial action to allow talks to take place," said Ms Hearn.
"We simply cannot go to the bargaining table with a threat of immediate action hanging over our heads." "
We believe the majority of firefighters would find our new offer acceptable, particularly given the current financial climate and the very protracted negotiations.
"I would ask firefighters to send the strongest possible message to their union to come back to the bargaining table so we can resolve this situation. This type of industrial action is not in anyone's best interests, and could affect public safety," she said.
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