The UFBA, along with other associations and unions, have been involved in the consultation under the Independent Review led by retired judge Coral Shaw. As the leading association representing the interests of all firefighters across NZ we fully support the recommendations of this report.
FENZ is under no pretence that bullying and harassment is evident in the fire and emergency sector across all regions and at all levels. To address this FENZ requested the independent review, involving an independent panel leading many consultations with workers, unions and associations through surveys, hui, meetings and discussions.
Bullying can take many forms and anecdotal evidence, coupled with HR reports from FENZ, show incidents involving racism, sexism and homophobia (to name a few) – all are unacceptable and targets of bullying behaviour often suffer from isolation and lack of support, as do those who are accused. Individuals who bully and harass need to be held accountable and incidents need to be adequately addressed and a culture of mutual respect is essential to eliminating bullying and harassment.
Findings from the report show that:
- Bullying or harassment was more likely to be perpetrated by a colleague senior to the target (69%).
- Almost half (45%) reported witnessing and/or experiencing bullying or harassment in FENZ; less than half (43%) reported it.
- The few people (4%) who said they had been accused of bullying or harassment were more likely to seek support (39%) and almost half (45%) of them felt that people accused are not treated fairly.
The UFBA supports moves to address bullying and harassment and fully supports FENZ in its actions to create a more positive, inclusive, healthy and safe working environment for its 14,000 staff of 11,000 volunteers and nearly 3,000 career personnel.
Providing support services
As one provider of a number of options for those involved in complaints, conflict or dispute (along with EAP, Vitae, VSOs and Peer Support) the UFBA has a vested interest in supporting victims of bullying and ensuring all parts of the process comply with the principles of natural justice. Last year alone we supported the resolution of 60 cases of conflict and acknowledge there are areas for improvement towards a swifter and smoother resolution with FENZ.
The UFBA endorses the review’s recommendations and are committed to support FENZ in implementation. We will be working closely with FENZ to align our procedures for advocacy with their policies and procedure. Our advocacy must be an integrated element of the FENZ complaints procedure and readily accessible for all who need it.
The report notes 33 recommendations including the need for a universal set of values and accompanying code of behaviour from FENZ developed in accordance with workers, unions and associations. There is also a need to remove barriers for reporting bullying behaviour. We look forward to any opportunity to work with FENZ as a trusted partner to support this.
Recommendations and UFBA
Recommendations by the report highlight the need for FENZ and UFBA to address conflict of interest when the UFBA is representing both an individual and a brigade.
The UFBA employs a number of staff members to provide the individual advocacy function. With robust systems and procedures in place this allows both perspectives to be represented with confidentiality as one advocate can represent the accuser and the other, the accused.
Integrity is a fundamental element of the role and supported by systems that preserve confidentiality mitigates any issues that could arise from conflict of interest.
While some may raise the issue around ‘independent’ advocacy when funding is provided to the UFBA direct from FENZ, this is the result of the legislative changes under the FENZ Act 2017. The UFBA draws on our history and relationship as a trusted partner to acknowledge that FENZ value our impartiality, experience and perspective to be the ‘voice of reason’. Our independent governance, MoU with FRFANZ, historical grounding and representative support from volunteers across the sector place us as a representative of the people, made up of the people.
Already the UFBA is supporting FENZ towards delivering the standards it wants to achieve, namely around education and training and the complaints process through our personal development workshops in Leadership and Wellbeing and through our independent advocacy service. Our alumni of 270 graduates of our Leadership workshop are a step towards modelling appropriate leadership behaviour. Our workshops align learnings including CIPSS, MANERS and psychological wellbeing that reflect the needs of FENZ personnel, health and wellbeing services and FENZ Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. We recently met with our expert advisor and facilitator to develop resources and increase our coaching and mentoring offering, to support the necessary changes for effective leadership.
Our historic relationship and core services make UFBA an integral partner in helping FENZ reshape these positive changes.
The report references the ‘tribal’ culture of the sector highlighting divisions between career and volunteer and rural and urban. Under our MoU and planned merge with FRFANZ we are looking to help bridge these divides and all of our services remain accessible, and indeed are represented by, all brigade types whether urban, rural, career or volunteer.
FENZ has an initial eight week plan of action to implement the recommendations and the UFBA will be a significant player in this.
While the report highlights the negative aspects of the internal culture, we believe this marks the beginning of positive change. As CS Lewis once said “You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.” This is so relevant as we look ahead to bringing about necessary change to benefit those in our sector.
As the leading and largest association working closely with FENZ, we’ll be holding FENZ to account to ensure changes are made towards a safer, respectful culture.
We encourage anybody suffering bullying or harassment to contact the UFBA’s advocacy and support services on 0508 832 269.
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