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Wednesday, 26 November 2014 00:00

A message from the State President

Dear members,

On Tuesday last week, Labor announced a suite of initiatives, including their deal with the union to allocate an additional 350 paid firefighters to CFA and 100 to MFB. Labor have confirmed to VFBV that this 350 additional paid firefighters is in addition to the 342 they forced into CFA’s EBA. Labor have confirmed that CFA did not request these additional firefighters and they do not have any idea where they are to be allocated but they have said CFA is to employ the 350 within the next 4 years.

Labor have also announced that they will reintroduce the Board of Reference and that they support the union having a say in where, how many and what numbers of paid firefighters are employed by CFA. They did not agree with us that this should be based solely on the determination by the CFA Chief Officer and based on a transparent, evidence and risk based needs analysis.

Last week, confirming they had no plans for where the additional paid firefighters could be located, Labor also confirmed they had not contemplated any specific fire stations capital funding to accommodate these firefighters, suggesting they thought they would be accommodated at existing CFA facilities.

One conclusion is that they genuinely have no idea and they will now need to strip $100 Million out of CFA’s existing budget to buy trucks and build new integrated stations. Another conclusion is that they are going to convert existing integrated stations to fully paid stations, marginalising volunteers and destroying 1000’s of CFA volunteer firefighter surge capacity workforce.

Labor’s policy announcement is a step backwards to the deal making of 5 and 6 years ago. There has been no discussion with CFA, VFBV or volunteers about what is needed to build and strengthen CFA capacity and no discussion about what would be smart in terms of maintaining and building volunteer capacity and strengthening and sustaining CFA’s volunteer based and integrated model.

None of the initiatives announced on Tuesday are designed to have any benefit or support to volunteers. When asked why Labor have turned their backs on volunteers; why they have ignored the fundamental principles of trust and integrity the Shadow Minister Wade Noonan said this was a very important issue for the union.

Be very clear, VFBV supports the provision of additional resources wherever determined by CFA Chief Officer and welcomes the support of additional paid firefighters wherever they are needed.

But a union/industrial driven CFA, designed and aided and abetted by a Labor Government to fulfil UFU’s stated position of creating a “career-based firefighting services to cover the whole of the Melbourne urban area and other major regional centres in Victoria” is something that we cannot stand by and let happen. We know what this means for a volunteer based and fully integrated CFA service model and is a disaster for Victoria’s emergency management capability. It will mean Victoria has no surge capacity for major incidents; it will reduce CFA volunteer numbers by 1000’s and it will kill CFA as we know it today.

For months we have been talking to Labor about what is needed if they are really serious about improving community safety and this includes:

  • More resources to support training of volunteers
  • Investment in a modern firefighting fleet
  • Remove industrial restrictions that are designed to erode volunteer capacity
  • Give CFA the flexibility to deploy resources when and where they are needed
  • Remove industrial control over how CFA uses its workforce. 
  • Ensure CFA’s integrated paid staff and volunteer model can work well 

They have ignored this and didn’t even have the decency to talk with us about their latest announcement.

Labor’s policy is a plan to destroy CFA’s volunteer based and integrated foundations and to reduce CFA volunteer firefighter numbers.

On the issue of Presumptive Legislation, Labor says it will do it; says it will include the 12 cancers but in the fine print says it will effectively discriminate against CFA volunteers. Labor said they could not provide VFBV a commitment that they will not differentiate between volunteers and paid staff in their legislation. They have quoted the Tasmanian model which discriminates against volunteer firefighters exposed to the same risks as their paid counterparts.

They are happy to find $150 million for more paid firefighters even when CFA hasn’t asked for them; even though CFA still has not had the need to deploy 100 of the last 342 but they say their model for Presumptive Legislation for volunteers will need to be restricted because there isn’t enough money. By the way they as we understand it, they haven’t limited the $$ for the paid firefighters Presumptive component. Similar to the Tasmanian approach to discrimination.

Labor have said it will support the unions push to reopen another inquiry into whether Fiskville is safe to use, and the contamination and health impact on employees.  From our conversation with Labor it looks to be nothing more than the unions push to close Fiskville.

CALL TO ACTION

Be very clear - the union will twist our reaction as being opposed to paid firefighters – this is not true.

The reality is that this deal between Labor and the union, and their complete disregard and disrespect for what it means for CFA volunteers, a CFA integrated service model, and actual local community capability, is sinister and the biggest threat to Victoria’s public safety, that we have not seen since Labor Minister Race Matthews tried to amalgamate MFB and CFA many years ago.

In summary can you spread this message as wide as you can.

We need to get our volunteers active so that the community can see the extreme threat that is posed by Labor’s policy announcement.

We need you, and the people you talk to, to activate a community backlash to this announcement now, and when they contemplate how to vote.

Hans van Hamond AFSM
State President

Read 10381 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:39
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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