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Fire brigade on course for new strike, FENZ signs up for negotiation talks

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Fire and Emergency New Zealand says it has listened to striking firefighters, but both sides continue to disagree.

Wellington firefighters take part in the nationwide strike on August 19, 2022.
Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Paid firefighters laid down their jobs yesterday in an hour-long strike – their first such national action.

Fire and Emergency went on strike for better pay, more staff, more mental health support and safer work procedures.

They said they felt unheard of and stressed about the low workforce that caused them to work overtime and a lack of maintenance on fire trucks.

It followed lengthy negotiations between FENZ and the fire brigade.

FENZ said it had requested facilitated negotiations, while the union has planned another strike next week.

FENZ received a total of 22 calls across the country during yesterday’s hour-long strike by professional firefighters, but there were no serious incidents.

Firefighter strike Wellington

Wellington firefighters take part in the nationwide strike on August 19, 2022.
Photo: RNZ/Samuel Rillstone

Deputy National Commander Brendan Nally said this included 12 incidents in key centers attended by volunteer crews.

Fire and Emergency had informed ambulance services that during the hour of the strike, career crews would not respond to medical emergencies as they usually would — and volunteers would not respond to medical calls outside their area, he said.

It was fortunate that no major fires or other emergencies occurred during the strike, the first ever by professional firefighters, Nally said.

Fire and Emergency had asked the Employment Relations Authority to conduct facilitated negotiations to resolve the standoff with the professional firefighting union, he said.

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Minister of the Interior Jan Tinetti. File photo.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Interior Minister Jan Tinetti said it is critical that the country has an effective fire service.

“I am critically aware of the welfare issues that firefighters have raised and they need to be addressed with some urgency and so I have made my expectations clear, but again I have a very very limited remit just because of the way FENZ operates as an independent crown entity,” Tinetti said.

FENZ was 97 percent funded by insurance levees, she said.

After National Party spokesman Todd Muller accused the minister of having nothing to do with FENZ, Tinetti said National was using the matter to score political points and Muller was spreading misinformation.

The government worked hard to find a solution to help Fire and Emergency, Tinetti said.

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