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FENZ Deputy National Commander Responds to Fire Strikes

“It’s not good for anyone.” 

“I’m really proud of firefighters but we’re in a situation where the union, not the firefighters, have taken this very very old-school approach to bargaining, and we’re not used to it in this country” said Brendan Nally Deputy National Commander FENZ, in his interview with our reporter Graham Bloxham who asked him about the road to healing the relationship between the union and FENZ (watch the interview above for full details).

Following overwhelming community support, the Firefighter’s strike on Friday highlighted the issues the union faces, issues they feel FENZ (Fire and Emergency New Zealand) has neglected. We spoke to the Deputy Commander to hear his response.

Nally feels the union has taken negotiations to a place he describes as “quite acrimonious”, a bitter relationship where neither party is fully satisfied, and the distance between the union and FENZ is “miles and miles apart.”

A continuation of the New Zealand standard mediation process is what Nally has indicated as the proper channel to settle the discrepancies. 

Union members emphasised that they have been trying to work through this mediation but feel that this process is taking far too long. The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union went on strike last Friday 19th August, and have planned another this next Friday. The main protest occurred on the Terrace, and we went down to see what they had to say.

We spoke with NZ Professional Firefighters’ Union Secretary Joanne (Wattie) Watson outside FENZ national headquarters. She expressed dislike for FENZ’s rhetoric that she felt blamed the union and indicated they were forcing members to strike. Countering this claim, she told us that “94% of our members voted for this action.” See the full interview above: 

Zach and Rob also gave us direct insight into the struggles they face.

Zach outlined the lack of appreciation the fire service receives. Stating that they are “undervalued, under-resourced, and understaffed.”

After going through so much mentally and physically, some firefighters are not even paid enough to put food on the table, as Zach told us that he has heard of “Firefighters in Auckland going to food-banks to be able to live.” See the full interview above:

Rob discussed the mental strain that comes with the job. He explained that “For all non-breathing arrest, they automatically turn out the fire service as well.”

This means that, “someone may have had a heart attack, someone may have had a stroke, but it also unfolds into people that have unfortunately been in a position where they have taken their own life.”

“The psychological fallout from that has been quite devastating for my members.”

Firefighters are faced with situations far beyond putting out fires. This is why, the union has called for more support in place to deal with the intense ramifications the job has on firefighters’ mental health.

Rob addressed FENZ’s rebuttal that firefighters already have mental health support, explaining that often the trauma is picked up on years down the line. He called for a better system where firefighters can get help earlier. See the full interview above.

It has become clear that both FENZ and NZPFU are at odds. NZPFU is striking again this Friday (26th). Awaiting the outcome of intense negotiation, we hope conditions improve.

Let us know your thoughts below.