Following the work the Professional Fire Fighters Union is leading to get firefighter-related cancers recognised by ACC, the UFBA is disappointed to learn that the decision has been made not to support presumptive legislation that would automatically recognise specific cancers as work-related illnesses.
The UFBA was hopeful the presumptive legislation would be adopted, ultimately paving the way for all firefighters to be recognised by ACC. For volunteers we would pursue recognition of the fire and emergency ‘work’ volunteers undertake for their communities being seen for exactly that, and not a ‘leisure activity’ as it is currently defined.
The Minister for internal Affairs had already made her position clear on this matter, that is, she expects all firefighters will be afforded the same benefits from such a process.
In relation to cancer claims to ACC, we were advised yesterday that rather than being determined by the presumptive legislation, a toxicology panel of independent clinical experts will assess any claims to ACC for firefighter-related cancers based upon:
- The decade in which the firefighter mostly worked. This may signal the type of protective gear they did or didn’t wear
- How long the firefighter has been working
- Whether the firefighter was exposed to ‘exceptional events’, such as chemical factory explosions
- Whether the disease has developed outside the usual demographic for that type of cancer
ACC have worked directly with Fire and Emergency NZ, without Union and Association input.
While the toxicology panel may indeed recognise certain cancers for those considered under the above criteria, this still excludes volunteers. In our eyes this is unacceptable and we will look to raise this directly with the Minister for Internal Affairs. We want to see volunteer firefighters have access to the same support – for exposure to the same risks – as their career counterparts, even if that is still to be assessed under the criteria above.
That said, we are confident that members would prefer to see presumptive legislation being passed for the benefit of all firefighters.
We would also like to know more about what determines whether a claim is valid or not within the criteria and upon what research that decision is made.
We will keep you posted on any progress.
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