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The 2014 survey scores for importance against specific statements in the ‘people management – my brigade’ theme scored equal highest against statement scores across the survey.

The statement “Workplace bullying is not tolerated in the brigades that I have been a member of” scored 9.2 for importance in the 2014 survey, consistent with the score of 9.3 received in 2013. The statement “the environment at my brigade is volunteer friendly, welcoming to new members and creates good morale” scored 9.1 for importance in the 2014 and 2013 surveys.

These scores are supported by written comments received from respondents that relate to their own brigades, with comments relating to a high level of importance amongst volunteers for a safe and welcoming brigade environment, free of bullying or other forms of harassment.

In the written comments, there is a common and substantial concern raised about bullying and harassment, and the poor level of response and support for resolving conflict when it does occur.

One interpretation of the spread and the tone of the commentary could be that when things are going well there is generally a high degree of satisfaction.

However, when there are problems in particular brigades or locations, these have a specific impact on the people involved and are generally not managed as well as they should be.

The comments are consistent with written survey responses to statement fourteen, suggesting that some brigades need more support in this area.

Comments also suggest that there are ‘cliques’, instances of ‘them and us’, ‘clubs’ and other cultural elements that negatively impact on volunteers generally as well as impacting on teamwork and the effective utilisation of many willing volunteers.

There are several comments suggesting conflict situations, problem individuals (both paid and volunteer) and problem cultural elements are not dealt with as quickly as they should be.

There is also a concerning trend suggesting that people are discouraged from speaking out and a repeating concern that officers responsible for dealing with conflict are not objective. A theme recurring through many responses is the need for better leadership development and a more effective process for dealing with conflict resolution that includes a safeguard against subjectivity (described as favouritism by some).

The commentary suggests that when things are working well (which is the predominant assessment across the survey) service as a CFA volunteer is reasonably comfortable, but when conflict escalates, the current approach does not cope as well as volunteers expect it to, leaving issues to escalate and cause long term impacts.

Some of the comments suggest a desire for CFA leadership and support staff to take a more active role when conflict resolution is required. Several comments seek a mechanism whereby VFBV or some other independent organisation can ensure reasonable protocols are in place and that appropriate support is provided to individuals in conflict or bullying situations.

Survey performance scores have dropped slightly from 2013, resulting in a gap score of 1.7. This theme is one of only two to see an increase in gap from 2013 to 2014 (respect and professionalism being the other theme with an increased gap).

West and South West Regions have lower gap scores than other Regions. Further analysis of the factors influencing these results may reveal more valuable information.

 

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Published in Uncategorised
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 00:00

Open Letter to the People of Victoria

A message from the Board of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria.

On Tuesday 18th November, the Labor Party announced a policy that we believe will have grave and disastrous consequences for CFA.

As CFA volunteer firefighters with an average of over 40 years’ service each and as the elected board of the body established in Victorian law to be the voice of CFA volunteers, we feel the need to take this unprecedented action of activating all Victorians to help us stop a policy that has the potential to destroy CFA.

Our concern with the recently announced Labor policy is that it establishes external industrial interference with the CFA Chief Officer’s power to decide where and when and how he uses CFA firefighters.

We are also concerned that Labor’s policy will reduce CFA’s volunteer firefighting force by thousands of volunteers, pushing volunteers out of CFA stations and hundreds of CFA trucks off the road when we need them for major fires such as Black Saturday.

Labor has grossly underestimated the cost and impact of its policy.  Labor’s promise of $150M and an additional 350 paid firefighters actually only provides 70 additional paid firefighters on the ground at any one time under current paid firefighter rostering arrangements, and it will come at the expense of thousands of highly trained and professional volunteer firefighters.

We support and welcome additional paid support and resources for CFA, provided these resources are required and provided that the CFA determines the need, not a union.  Don’t be fooled, the plan announced by Labor is not about improving community safety in Victoria, the detail included in their announcement is about giving the control of CFA to a union.

Labor’s policy announcement includes specific provisions to surrender CFA operational decisions to an external industrial relations panel.

Instead of Labor’s policy, we need a plan that will recruit and train more CFA volunteer firefighters, provide trucks and equipment to combat fires and other incidents, investment in a modern firefighting fleet, give CFA the flexibility to deploy resources when and where they are needed and remove industrial control over how CFA uses its workforce.

Victoria is one of the most fire prone areas in the world and there are predictions of longer, hotter and more severe fire seasons ahead.  If Labor’s policy is allowed to push trained and experienced CFA volunteers out of fire stations across greater metropolitan Melbourne, Victoria will not have the fire fighting force it needs for day to day incidents and certainly will not have the force to deal with major incidents when they occur, such as Black Saturday.

When you vote on Saturday 29th understand one thing, as some of Victoria’s most senior volunteer firefighters, we believe Labor’s policy for CFA is not good for CFA volunteers, is not good for Victoria and is not good for the future of CFA.
Signed;

All ten members of the VFBV Board. (The attached PDF copy includes all ten signatures)

 


 

A Message to the Labor Party

Dear (Labor) Member of Parliament,

This week the Board of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria have taken the unprecedented step of publishing an open letter to the people of Victoria, to record their strong objection to Labor’s policy announcement of the 18th November 2014 affecting the CFA.

The Board have not taken this decision lightly, and want you to understand the depth of despair and anger amongst volunteer ranks caused by Labor’s CFA policy - a policy that sweeps aside the role, discounts the work and ignores the rights of unpaid, hard-working and committed volunteers who make up over 97% of CFA’s 62,000 members and staff.

Make no mistake – this policy is a direct attack on CFA as a statutory volunteer based fire and emergency service where volunteers are supported by sufficient paid staff as expertly determined by the Chief Officer and who form a fully integrated workforce to deliver CFA services.

In 2011 Labor, Coalition and Green MPs in the Victorian Parliament unanimously voted to amend the CFA Act to explicitly recognise this long known fact.

Critical aspects of the amendment bill included:

  • Statutory recognition of the Authority as a volunteer based organisation in which volunteers are supported by employees in a fully integrated manner ;

  • Statutory recognition and acceptance of the Volunteer Charter which requires amongst other things that the Government and the Authority commits to meaningful consultation with the VFBV on behalf of CFA volunteers on any matter that might reasonably be expected to affect them;

  • The statutory requirement that he Authority in performing its functions have regard to the commitment and principles set out in the Volunteer Charter; and,

  • The statutory requirement that the Authority is responsible for developing policy and organisational arrangements that encourage, maintain and strengthen the capacity of volunteer officers and members to provide the Authority’s fire and emergency services.

The reason and purpose for these amendments were to set aside industrial arrangements introduced in the final years of the Brumby Government. Those arrangements failed to recognise that CFA and its services to the public are volunteer based and that the role of paid staff is to support such volunteers services as and when determined by the CFA’s Chief Officer and the Board of the Authority according to their statutory obligations.

Since these amendments, the CFA has fought and won cases in the Fair Work Commission and Federal Court that uphold its managerial and statutory responsibility to determine paid staff numbers and allocations within the organisation including its brigades on a needs basis as determined by the Chief Officer.

The CFA model recruits and integrates paid firefighters into volunteer brigades where they are needed to support the delivery of CFA services.

Labor’s policy axes this approach - it takes away the Chief’s role of determining these matters based on expertise and transfers it to an industrial board of reference. Further, it eliminates local volunteers and their state representatives from having any input into these decisions, despite their knowledge and experience.

This new Labor policy will have significant impacts upon CFA’s future and inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in costs to Victorians without any increase in public safety.

VFBV are deeply opposed to your support for the reinstatement of the previously short lived industrial board of reference. It changes the successful nature of the CFA as an organisation (which was consistently lauded by the Bushfire Royal Commission). It is an egregious attack on the independence and statutory powers of CFA’s Chief Officer. Decision making on key staffing issues is perverted from a critical operational matter to a matter of industrial negotiation.

To be clear, volunteers consider the office of the Chief Officer to be sacrosanct, and any attack on the independence and statutory authority of their Chief will be met with fierce and unrelenting resistance.

VFBV met with shadow Minister Wade Noonan last week following the announcement to express its concern and dismay at the policy. Nothing was provided during or since that meeting to allay our fears and we remain deeply concerned.

It was under the Bracks Labor Government that the Volunteer Charter was negotiated and signed by Steve Bracks as Premier, the CFA Chairman and the volunteer representatives. We now find that you have turned your back on the principles and values you told us were an enduring commitment. Volunteers have every right to feel aggrieved. Quite rightly, as the word spreads - volunteers will see your Party’s policy as a betrayal to the trust and respect afforded to you by CFA volunteers.
Sincerely,

Andrew Ford
Chief Executive Officer

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 28 February 2013 00:00

VFBV Secretariat

VFBV Secretariat Team

 

Executive Team

 

Adam Barnett
Chief Executive Officer

P: (03) 9886 1141 M: 0403 711 911
F: (03) 9886 1618
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Mark Dryden
Executive Officer

P: (03) 9886 1141   M: 0428 767 258
F: (03) 9886 1618
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Support and Field Team

 

Chris Fryer
Policy Support Officer

P: 0400 228 601
F: (03) 9886 1618
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 Peter Sharman

Peter Sharman
Support Officer - North East

P: 0428 751 652
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Max Blackmore
Support Officer - North West

P: 0409 119 477
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Colin Booth
Support Officer - South East

P: 0456 554 593
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Jason Willis
Support Officer - South West

P: 0409 109 447
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John Lloyd
Support Officer - West

P: 0407 334 685
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Administration Team

 
Cathie Smith

Cathie Smith
Administration Officer

P: (03) 9886 1141
F: (03) 9886 1618
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Kara Bishop
Administration Officer

P: (03) 9886 1141
F: (03) 9886 1618
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Jade van Blaricum
Administration Officer

P: (03) 9886 1141
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CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.

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