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Firefighters vote yes and ratify agreement

Professional firefighters have overwhelmingly voted for an agreement that the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union [NZPFU] says will save lives.

The agreement was put to union members for a vote over the past week and counted at the NZPFU offices on Sunday.

It was voted for with a majority of 97.7 per cent.

“This agreement will change lives and save lives with pay increases between 20-24 per cent and blood screening for firefighters’ occupational cancers,” a NZPFU spokesperson said.

“Members had previously rejected two insulting offers by Fire and Emergency NZ [Fenz,] which did not address the significantly low wages of our membership and failed appropriately to address health, safety and wellbeing claims. Fenz spent 18 months stalling and denying the fire crisis.

“If the government hadn’t stepped in, we would still be in dispute. This settlement will be remembered as one of the pivotal moments for the NZPFU and will have a positive impact for our members today but also our members of the future.”

Industrial action undertaken by union members over the past 18 months included walking off-site for hour-long protests that left stations unattended and volunteer crews to respond to emergencies.

Details of the agreement include blood screening for early detection of firefighters’ occupational cancers and other illnesses, psychological support programmes, and significant cumulative wage increases up to 24 per cent and backdated to 2021.

Masterton fire officer and local union vice president Tim Scott said they were glad to be back at work.

“I gauged from the meeting on station that everybody who attended was in favour. It’s an anonymous vote of course but the stats really tell the story.”

Scott said four firefighters were unable to attend the meeting but some of those attended meetings elsewhere.

“This morning on site and we were back to business as usual.

“It’s a really positive feeling. We’re glad to be back – no one likes industrial action.

“One of the biggest things is the huge amount of support from the public, our mayor, the local media – it was all positive.”

Scott said some of their supporters were people who they had helped on the job.

“Probably the biggest thing we were worried about was industrial action putting us offside with the public. But it doesn’t appear that happened.”

Fenz chief executive Kerry Gregory said the ratification was a welcome and significant step forward.

“We are pleased that, with government support, we have been able to reach an agreement which recognises and values our firefighters.

“Our aim has always been to do right by our people, while ensuring the sustainability of Fire and Emergency for all New Zealanders.

“I am optimistic the ratification of this agreement signals a step forward in rebuilding relationships.”

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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