NSW firefighters strike in support of pay claim

February 16, 2008

NSW firefighters, members of the Fire Brigade Employees Union, took strike action for one hour on February 15 after talks with the NSW state government on a pay offer broke down. The FBEU is seeking a 3.5% pay increase each year for three years, to keep pace with inflation.

The latest offer from the NSW government is 4% per year (up from its initial offer of 2.5%), but is tied to firefighters giving up conditions, including one week's leave each year. The government offer has been rejected by the union.

The FBEU imposed administrative bans on February 14, instructing all members not to perform any relieving or stand-bys. Where stations are reduced to less than minimum staffing levels as a result of the bans, the station is to remain off-line until minimum staffing levels are restored.

The FBEU called a snap strike and stop work meeting of all on-duty members in the greater Sydney area on January 25 to consider the direction of the campaign. The meeting voted unanimously to empower the state secretary to take whatever steps necessary to take the dispute to a conclusion.

Union members have been subject to harassment by management for adhering to administrative bans imposed by the union, according to a posting by FBEU state secretary Simon Flynn on the union's website on February 8. "The union will not accept the bastardisation and humiliation of any member of the union on the basis of participation in an industrial dispute", Flynn said.

On February 4, the FBEU committee of management called a special general meeting of the union for February 22, to consider further steps in the campaign, including more industrial action. "Firefighters will not cop reduced conditions of employment like less annual leave, reduced workers compensation payments or closing fire stations to fund a pay rise", AAP quoted Flynn as saying on February 14. "But so far that is precisely what the NSW government is insisting on."

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