South Australian Country Fire Service Update

10 January 2020

The PSA would like to acknowledge and thank SACFS staff and volunteers who have put their lives on hold to fight these fires and provide support to those affected in the community. No amount of ‘thank yous’ will come close to conveying our gratitude. On behalf of the PSA, we thank you for your work and your community spirit.

Please be aware if you have been deployed for seven days, you are entitled to two stand down days and if you are deployed more than 80km from your home office you are entitled to receive travel allowances. If you have any issues accessing these entitlements during this time please contact the PSA Members’ Rights Hotline on (08) 8205 3227.

The PSA wrote to SACFS management recently to notify our concerns about Community Engagement Officers (CEO) contracts and a potential underpayment of wages. The PSA advised we had become aware that SACFS CEO's have been instructed to average their hours of work over a twelve-month period and this practice has been ongoing for several years. The PSA's position is that the practice of averaging hours of work over a twelve-month period is contrary to the terms of our members' contracts of employment and a breach of the industrial instruments.

From our discussions with members, we determined problems with the practice include:

  • Members running out of their "allocated hours" at the end of the financial year, leading to members being directed to stand down on leave without pay to balance their hours.
  • Fortnights where members are paid below their contracted hours failing to meet the minimum requirements of their contract.
  • Adjustment of hours to annually where overtime should have applied.
  • Requirement to lodge a time sheet rather than be automatically paid like other workers in the SACFS.
  • Members working more than five hours without a break.

The PSA received a response from the SACFS on 7 January 2020 with a number of Union wins, including:

  • SACFS shares our concerns with respect to the current terms and conditions and compliance with the Award and Enterprise Agreement, agreeing there is no provision for averaging of hours over a year. The averaging of hours for these workers will cease and all CEO's will be paid their contracted hours each fortnight.
  • Overtime will be paid when additional hours are worked, rather than "banking the hours" toward a yearly total. In addition to this, PSA members will seek approval for overtime from their Regional Commander.
  • CFS CEO's will be issued with standard CFS time sheets and will be paid under an auto-pay arrangement, rather than being required to lodge a time sheet to stimulate the pay cycle.
  • CEO's will not be required to work more than five hours without a break.

The PSA is continuing to advocate for these members in regards to a potential underpayment of wages and will support them to make applications to the agency to seek back payment of any wages owing to them.

The PSA continues to be in dispute with SACFS about to complaints from PSA members relating to bullying and harassment by specific managers. The PSA has demanded that line management of the community engagement team be changed. A meeting with Chief Officer, will be held to discuss and address our complaint.

Although a level of supervision has been placed between staff and their previous managers, members are still concerned the offending behaviour that puts their health and well being at risk has not been addressed by SACFS senior management.

The PSA had secured a meeting between PSA officials and Worksite Representatives with the Chief Officer on 19 December 2019 to discuss this issue and to seek action to address members’ concerns. Due to the catastrophic fire conditions, tragic loss of life and ongoing operations, this meeting has been delayed. The PSA continues to be in dispute with SACFS and will seek another meeting with the Chief Officer at the appropriate time.