Minister admits FENZ creation 'a big part' of union ructions

Connor Stirling
Source: Q and A

The minister responsible for Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) says the 2017 amalgamation that created the entity has played "a big part" in the standoff between it and the NZ Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU.)

The union, which represents nearly 2000 members, has been bargaining with FENZ for a year now in what's being described as a stalemate.

"The bargaining really collapsed in about February this year," Union Secretary Wattie Watson told Q+A.

Low pay, frequent overtime, poor quality equipment, and a lack of appropriate training make up some of the claims, but ultimately the as-yet single day of mediation "bombed."

"We wanted to keep the conversation going though, so we tried to initiate conversation on other really important issues like staffing levels, they weren't prepared to do that at this point," Watson added.

Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti has met with the FENZ board and NZPFU to outline her expectations of the independent Crown entity.

Established in 2017, FENZ pulled together more than 40 independent organisation into a single organisation to better reflect the range of work the fire service did then.

Fire truck.

Both the union and the minister say the amalgamation has played a part in fuelling strains the union is concerned about.

"That's been a big part of this," Tinetti told Q+A.

"It was a necessary amalgamation that had to happen. We needed a modern fire service to serve this country, but that didn't make it easy."

Watson points towards an increase in the corporate structure at FENZ as a sticking point.

"There's about 40-50 less career firefighters available today than there was in 2016, yet in comparison to 2016 to 2021 annual reports, there's 300 more support/corporate management staff," she explained.

Both parties have now agreed on work to progress negotiations.

"We have decided to enlist the support and assistance of a mutually agreed independent third party," FENZ said in a statement.

It's hoped that support will culminate in a meeting in the coming week.