The Fire Brigade Employment Union say Christmas was less than merry for many Fire and Rescue NSW personnel, as COVID takes its toll.
In the past week there have been more positive COVID cases involving firefighters than in the previous two years combined, according to the union, and as a result six additional stations had to be closed on Christmas, including Unanderra.
Firefighters do not take a break over Christmas, a period which is known to be a notoriously busy.
Leighton Drury, Fire Brigade Employees' Union State Secretary, said the loss of firefighters who were unwell or in isolation put additional pressure on remaining staff.
"Christmas Day is always hard, but COVID is not going away and we were already struggling," he said.
The Fire Brigade Employment Union (FBEU) have been advocating for increased control mechanisms for operational firefighters, including the supply of rapid antigen testing as a way to ensure workers can continue to turn up to protect the community during the Christmas period.
"Paramedics have been using them, police are using them, miners ... it's becoming a normal protocol government and business are putting in place to protect their workforce and keep critical infrastructure online," Mr Drury said.
"We just want them available for people to take before they come to work so we don't lose additional firefighters."
A positive COVID case within the FRNSW headquarters on earlier this week is likely to jeopardise the wellbeing and Christmas arrangements of the FRNSW executive leadership team.
Rapid Antigen tests were carried out at the Greenacre headquarters on Thursday. On the same day the same FRNSW executive leadership quashed a request for the same testing for firefighters.
"The hypocrisy is a bitter pill to swallow," Mr Drury said.
This highlights an urgent need to ensure emergency service workers are supported.
FBEU is calling on the state government to mandate all emergency service workforces and to ensure steady supply of rapid antigen tests to see emergency service workers through this busy period.
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