Detail for new the NTFRS Enterprise Agreement
Outlined below are the terms of a ‘without prejudice’ offer for a new enterprise agreement to replace the existing Northern Territory Public Sector Fire and Rescue Service 2017-2021 Enterprise Agreement (‘the current Agreement’). This offer takes into account the United Workers Union (UWU) bargaining issues and claims, and reflects the progress made during the negotiation meetings to date.
The offer is consistent with the NT Public Sector Wages Policy 2021-2024 and the NTPS Bargaining Policy 2021-2024, and the terms comprise a complete package of improvements and changes to terms and conditions of employment.
The content of the proposal offer reflects the discussions and collaborative approach that has occurred since the commencement of the negotiations. This means there has been:
- genuine consideration and time to discuss the UWU claims, and agency-specific proposals including NTPS sector-wide common conditions;
- sharing of information such as costing of claims and proposals; and
- consideration of operational information including the application and interpretation of current agreement provisions.
The proposals set out below include consideration of the logs of claims received, which have been discussed during negotiation meetings to be incorporated into a new agreement or addressed through other mechanisms.
- Term of Agreement
It is proposed the new agreement (the Agreement) will have a four-year term that will provide employees with job certainty and secured terms and conditions over this period.
- No involuntary redundancies for term of Agreement
There will be no involuntary redundancies (notice of redundancy) for the term of the Agreement. This will not apply to an employee declared potentially surplus to requirements under section 41 of the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 1993 (PSEM Act) and listed on the OCPE Redeployment Database for longer than two years.
- Lump sum payment
There would be a $4,000 lump sum payment after the Agreement is approved by the Fair Work Commission, and $2,000 lump sum payments payable on the first pay period on or after 7 November in the years 2022, 2023 and 2024. Overall, employees would receive $10,000 over 4 years.
Employer superannuation guarantee is applicable to the lump sum payment. However, due to the rules of the defined benefit schemes, employer superannuation guarantee is not applicable to the lump sum paid to NTGPASS and CSS members.
To be eligible for the lump sum payment, employees must be employed on the date the payment is to be made as set out in the Agreement. Part time employees will be entitled to the full lump sum payments. The lump sum will be payable to employees who are on unpaid parental leave, unpaid personal leave or other leave without pay that is for a period of less than 4 weeks. Part time employees will be eligible for the full lump sum payment (i.e. not pro-rata)
- Commitment if there are changes to the Wages Policy
Should there be a change to the Wages Policy during the term of the Agreement that provides for additional benefits above those contained in this offer (such as an increase to salaries above the value of the lump sum payment at point 3 of this offer) these will be passed on through a determination.
- No reduction in current or future rights and entitlements
The Agreement would include a clause that there will be no reduction in current or future employee rights and entitlements as provided in the By-laws and Determination, including provision of allowances and leave arrangements for the term of the Agreement.
A new sub-clause will also be included providing that the Commissioner undertakes that for the term of this Agreement, general employment conditions specified in the PSEM By-laws and Determinations will not be varied without consultation and agreement with the affected parties prior to the formalisation of an amendment.
Improved NTPS Common Conditions
- New Christmas Closedown Leave
A new entitlement providing paid Christmas Closedown Leave to cover the working days between Christmas and New Year’s day for day workers). Shiftworkers will be able to bank 3 days (22.8 hours) of Christmas closedown leave.
For clarity, as this is not a typical leave entitlement, the banked leave must be taken within 12 months and doesn't accumulate; is not available to be taken at half pay; will not attract recreation leave loading; and is not paid out on cessation of employment.
Christmas Closedown provisions consistent with NTPS common conditions for day workers will also be included in the agreement to formalise current practices for day workers
- Continue to increase allowances by Consumer Price Index (CPI)
The Agreement would continue CPI indexation of existing allowances in Determination Number 1 of 2021 that are adjusted by the September to September Darwin CPI. The allowances will not reduce if the Darwin CPI is negative.
- Incorporate PSEM By-law leave entitlements in the Agreement
The following By-law entitlements will be incorporated into the Agreement:
- Defence Service Leave (By-law 14)
- Leave Without Pay (By-law 16)
- Leave to Attend Arbitration Business (By-law 17)
- Release for Jury Service (By-law 20
- Release to Attend as a Witness (By-law 21)
- Emergency Leave (By-law 15)
- Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18)
Miscellaneous leave (By-law 18) entitlements would be set out in separate clauses, namely ‘Blood Donation Leave’ and ‘Leave to Engage in Voluntary Emergency Management Activities’.
The agreement will also be updated to clarify the PSEM By-laws also apply to NTFRS.
- Leave to engage in voluntary emergency management activities
This is a new clause that transfers Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18) in relation to volunteering for emergency management activities into the Agreement. The existing By-law provision will be updated to reflect current legislation and improved to include paid leave for reasonable rest time immediately following the employee’s participation in the emergency management activity.
- Improved leave for disabilities caused by war service (War Service Leave)
The existing entitlements, set out in Determination Number 6 of 2011, would be improved and included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. To assist veterans and agencies to apply the entitlements, the provisions would make it clear that ‘war service’ includes peace-keeping service and hazardous operational service.
The improvement will enable eligible employees to access their accrued war service leave (i.e. leave granted and accrued in relation to their original disability) for a further condition recognised as caused by war sometime after the recognition of the original disability (e.g. PTSD). Leave is currently only available in relation to the original disability.
- NAIDOC March and approved activities
This is a NEW entitlement. Paid NAIDOC leave would be available (up to 3 hours) to attend NAIDOC march and NAIDOC week activities, subject to operational requirements. Paid leave will be approved where flexible working arrangements are not available.
- Foster and Kinship Carers leave
Foster Carer and Kinship Carers Leave, set out in Determination Number 7 of 2020, would be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement and the entitlements improved to provide 2 days paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend Permanent Care Order interviews.
- Gender Transition Leave
This is a NEW entitlement. Gender transition leave would be available to support employees who are transitioning their gender. Employees with at least 12 months service and who have commenced transitioning their gender, would be entitled to up to 12 months leave, inclusive of 4 weeks paid and 48 weeks unpaid. Additional paid leave may be granted by the CEO on a case-by-case basis.
- Improved Compassionate Leave
There would be a number of improvements to compassionate leave as follows:
- 3 days increased to 5 days on the death or serious threat to life of the employee’s immediate family or household member, which will now include stillbirths;
- NEW – 3 days paid compassionate leave on the death of the employee’s (excluding casuals) extended family member. ‘Extended family member’ would be defined in the Agreement as meaning:
- a spouse of the employee’s child (e.g. son-in- law)
- a spouse of the employee’s sibling (e.g. sister-in-law)
- an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or first cousin of the employee.
- NEW – 3 days paid leave if the employee or their partner experiences a miscarriage. The employee must provide a medical certificate from a medical practitioner stating that the employee’s pregnancy or the partner’s pregnancy has ended. Leave is unpaid for casual employees.
- NEW – Kinship Obligation Leave – Five days paid leave for Sorry Business
This is a NEW entitlement. The Australian First Nation’s definition of ‘kinship’ will be included in the Agreement for the purpose of providing up to 5 days paid leave per annum to attend ‘Sorry Business’ or related purposes. That definition is:
Australian First Nations kinship where there is a connection, relationship or obligation under the customs, traditions or cultures of the communities, groups or families to which the employee belongs.
The definition was developed by an extensive consultation process involving key Aboriginal NTPS representatives. The 5 days will be in addition to compassionate leave, may be taken in broken periods and at half pay. The 5 days does not accrue and is not cumulative.
- NEW - Flexible Lifestyle (Purchased) Leave
This is a NEW entitlement. Flexible Lifestyle (Purchased) Leave will allow employees to request up to 8 weeks additional leave per year.
This scheme enables employees to purchase leave, through salary deductions, to be taken at full pay in the year it is purchased. Conditions will apply, including the requirement for employees to provide a written plan outlining how they intend to utilise the leave and the purchase must not result in an excess recreation leave balance.
- Returning from Parental Leave
Full-time employees returning from parental leave currently have a right ‘to request’ to convert to part-time employment on a temporary or permanent basis. Where the employee wishes to do so, the Agreement would provide a right to return on a part-time basis for up to 6 months. A longer period may be requested and approved by the CEO.
- Employer superannuation contributions (SG) paid during Parental Leave
Further improvements to parental leave will enable the payment of employer superannuation guarantee contributions (SG) during the first 12 months of parental leave (as if the employee had been at work) to more employees and to provide for increased SG payments. I am offering to:
- NEW - Recognising the support parents need at the time of the birth / placement of their child, a new provision to pay SG during paid and unpaid Partner Leave during the first 12 months as if the employee had been at work. Employees will be eligible if their spouse is also an NTPS employee. (note: employees taking Primary Caregiver Leave already have this entitlement).
- NEW - Recognising that women’s superannuation earning capacity may reduce when on parental leave, to pay SG at double the legislated rate during a period of paid Primary Caregiver Leave (includes Special Maternity Leave (stillbirth)). Should the employee elect to take any paid parental leave at half pay, the double superannuation contributions will only be paid for a period that is equivalent to utilising the paid parental leave at full pay.
- Primary Caregiver Parental Leave
Parental leave provisions will be updated to clarify that an employee on Partner Leave does not transfer to ‘Primary Caregiver Parental Leave' should they take over the carer responsibilities from their partner during the first 14 or 18 weeks following birth (or day of placement). This is how the clause currently operates and there is no change to these entitlements. The offer is providing, for the first time, employees on Partner Leave with employer superannuation payments at the normal legislated rate during their paid and unpaid Partner Leave (conditions apply). Access to combined parental leave is still available where the partner and primary carer are employed within the NTPS.
- Expanded definition of ‘continuous service’ under Parental Leave
To support employment mobility between different agencies within the broader NT Government context, the definition of ‘continuous service’ in the Parental Leave provisions would be expanded to recognise prior service with an agency for the purposes of the Financial Management Act 1995 (e.g. NT Police Force or Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority). This change will enable more employees to access paid parental leave entitlements. Similar changes would be made to the definition of an ‘NTPS Employee Couple’ to enable NT Government employees to combine their paid parental leave entitlements.
- Pre-natal Leave
This is a NEW entitlement. An employee, whose partner is pregnant, or a pregnant employee will be able to access up to 8 hours paid leave to attend pre-natal appointments. Currently employees use personal or other leave to accommodate these appointments.
- Pre-adoption Leave
This is an IMPROVED entitlement. The Agreement would improve the existing entitlement for employees to enable up to 2 days (16 hours) paid leave (currently unpaid) to attend interviews or examinations required in order to obtain approval for the employee’s adoption of a child.
- Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Provisions
The existing domestic and family violence provisions of the current Agreement would be expanded to include circumstances where employees have experienced sexual violence (i.e. sexual violence in non-domestic/family situations). The paid leave entitlements, currently provided in Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18), will be included in the Agreement to support a comprehensive agreement. The CEO will retain the ability to approve uncapped paid leave for these purposes.
- Emergency Leave
The current By-law 15 Emergency Leave entitlement (providing 3 days emergency leave per annum) would be included in the Agreement with some modifications. The definition of what constitutes an ‘emergency’ will be clarified for greater consistency in the application of the entitlement.
- Infectious Diseases
Pandemic events are rare and COVID-19 has shown that I am able to quickly and appropriately respond to rapidly changing circumstances to support employees with a range of entitlements using my powers under the PSEM Act.
Under the Infectious Diseases Leave provisions, a new clause will be included acknowledging that if an employee suffers an injury or disease in the course of their employment they may be eligible for workers compensation entitlements in accordance with the Return to Work Act 1986.
- Aboriginal recruitment, training and career progression
The Agreement would include a new clause that the parties acknowledge the NTPS Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy for 2021 – 2025 and Employment Instruction Number 15 (Special Measures) as key policy initiatives and legislation supporting Aboriginal recruitment, training and career progression.
- Safe and healthy work environment
The Agreement would include a new clause in relation to a safe and healthy work environment that provides:
- a commitment to supporting sector-wide guidelines to ensure work health and safety of employees, including remote employees and where travelling for work is required; and
- for all employees to be granted reasonable unscheduled short rest breaks (other than meal breaks) during work hours to refresh to ensure safe systems of work.
- Health Screening Leave – double existing entitlement
Currently 1 hour paid leave is available every 2 years for cancer screening under Miscellaneous Leave (By-law 18). The Agreement would replace this entitlement with a new ‘health screening leave’ that enables employees to access up to 1 hour of paid leave per year for the purpose of undertaking a health screening test associated with a public health screening program.
A ‘health screening test’ means a diagnostic procedure or medical appointment undertaken to screen for cancer or mental health conditions. If an employee undertakes screening for cancer and mental health in the same year, the maximum entitlement is 1 hour of paid leave.
- Work Life Balance and Family Friendly Provisions
Employees would continue to have access to the work life balance options provided under the current Agreement (e.g. part-time employment, and career breaks). For consistency and to ensure employee requests are considered in a timely manner, all requests for flexible work, regardless of the circumstances, will require a response from the CEO (or delegate) within 21 days and may only be refused on reasonable business grounds. ‘Reasonable business grounds’ will be as defined in the Agreement.
- Improved Dispute Settling Procedures
The current provisions would be amended to allow all disputes regarding refusals for flexible work or to extend parental leave to be referred to arbitration by a party following unsuccessful attempts at internal resolution and conciliation. This change removes the current exemptions of these disputes provisions. An employee who has a grievance about their treatment in employment can choose to have the decision reviewed in accordance with section 59 of the PSEM Act.
- Integrity of Payments (Over/Underpayments of salary)
NEW – To inform employees about the legal requirements under the Financial Management Act on the occasion they receive an overpayment or underpayment of salaries, a new provision will reference the appropriate legislation.
- Commitment to Review Community Language Allowance
An NTPS review of Community Language Allowance (Determination Number 6 of 2013) will occur during the term of the new agreement and I commit to extending those allowance outcomes to NTFRS employees once the review is complete.
In addition to the improved common NTPS provisions I am offering the following Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service specific provisions:
- Career Pathway
The career path provisions in the agreement will be retained. The current working group will also continue to work on further developing career paths during the term of the agreement
- Accelerated Recruitment Program
A commitment to review and enhance the Accelerated Recruitment Program to include re-appointees, subject to eligibility requirements. The parties would commit to completing a review during the term of the new agreement
- Higher Duties Allowance
Improved access to higher duties allowance to address operational issues that arise when backfilling District Officer Vacancies. This will allow officers at the substantive Station Officer classification to act as District Officer.
Responses to Union Claims
I have also agreed to a number of the unions claims that have been discussed during negotiation meetings and included in this offer as set out below.
- Leave Roster provisions
- The introduction of 13 month annual leave roster (to replace current 12 month roster). This is an operational matter that can be implemented for the 2022 leave roster.
- New provisions to be included in the agreement to provide that in addition to the rostered leave provisions, the two round minimum does not apply to unrostered leave, and employees may request unrostered leave subject to the maintenance of minimum staffing levels in this agreement.
- Long Service Leave
A review of By-Law 8 Long service leave provision will be conducted for the NTPS in consultation with unions with a view to provide access to single days of long service leave. Outcomes of this review will be applied to all NTPS employees covered by By-law 8, including NTFRS employees.
- Relinquishment of rank
Improvements to the Relinquishment of Rank provisions will be included in the agreement, including that “Rank will not officially be relinquished, nor will any relinquishment be processed until the merit selection process for the advertised vacancy in question has been finalised”.
- Track Stations Hours of Duty / Provisions
- A new section dedicated to hours of work for Track Station workers, with corresponding edits throughout the agreement where required for related provisions.
- The Day Command and Track Station provisions will be improved to include the words ‘or staffing’ i.e. “There will be no changes to Day Command or Track Stations conditions of employment or staffing unless agreed by the union, the Commissioner and Director.”
- Meal Allowance periods
The meal allowance breakfasts period will be amended to be 0600 hours to 0700 hours (currently 0630 to 0700).
- Fire investigations allowance
The clause will be updated to clarify that the minimum payment provisions of By-law 38 apply to designated employees who are rostered on call and recalled to duty; and that for employees not rostered on-call, that normal overtime or emergency duty provisions may apply (relevant to the applicable circumstances).
- By-laws in the agreement
I have offered to include all leave related bylaws into the agreement (except for long service leave which will be subject to review in 2022). I will also update the agreement to specifically clarify that where relevant, the PSEMA By-Laws apply to NTFRS (in line with draft clauses provided during bargaining). The PSEMA By-laws are easily located and available on the OCPE webpage.
There were a number of matters raised by the parties pertaining to the application of entitlements and conditions, for example, the extension of tenure for track stations, the application of By-Law 32 vehicle allowance for station transfers, and skills maintenance of day workers who may be required to work shifts. These were discussed during the bargaining process and the parties will continue to work on these matters during the life of the agreement.
Any agreed proposals arising from reviews conducted during the term of the agreement that have cost or operational implications will be subject to the NTPS Wages and Bargaining policies.
Other matters raised in the log of claims provided on 31 May 2021, and raised during the course of negotiations have been considered. During negotiation meetings, there were some claims that could not be agreed to, as they would not be in line with the NTPS Wages Policy (for example, increases to allowances without any efficiencies or offsets).
During the last six months all claims and proposals have been discussed and I acknowledge that where agreement has not been reached, UWU are still pursuing their claims. However, I have chosen to put forward an offer to assist the parties to understand my position on all claims and proposals at this time. I invite the UWU to provide their feedback so parties can reach ‘in principle’ agreement for a new enterprise agreement.
The above offer to represents a good package that provides an appropriate balance between job certainty, improved conditions for employees and which is within the NTPS Bargaining Policy. The offer also reflects the extensive and constructive discussions about issues raised by all parties during bargaining.
Last updated: 06 December 2021
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