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A bulletin from the United Firefighters’ Union (UFU) this week wrongly portrays recent changes to the Federal Fair Work Act as enabling an attack on career firefighters’ entitlements and conditions.

The changes to the law only ban proposed clauses in any Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) that would interfere in an emergency organisation’s legitimate work with, and support of, its volunteers, or its compliance with State laws such as the CFA Act.

Given that the UFU has previously stated that its proposed Enterprise Agreement had no effect on volunteers in any way, any claim that the new legislation will somehow interfere with staff’s conditions of employment is bewildering.

In fact, the amendments to the Fair Work Act specifically rule out having any effect on clauses that do not involve either protecting volunteers or complying with State laws. The amendments only enable VFBV to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC), on matters that affect, or could affect, CFA volunteers. So clearly, if any part of an EBA has no impact on volunteers, VFBV would have no ability to make a submission to Fair Work.

VFBV has always pointed out that it is only interested in aspects of the proposed CFA/UFU EBA that affect volunteers.  We have never asked for any role in the normal negotiation of pay and conditions, and the changes to the Fair Work Act do not give us that role.

HOW THE LEGISLATION WORKS

The recent Federal legislation made a simple change to the Fair Work Act, including amending section 195A of the Fair Work Act to make it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s ability to:

  • engage or deploy its volunteers;
  • provide support or equipment to those volunteers;
  • manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;
  • otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

In addition, the legislation makes objectionable any term requiring CFA to reach agreement with any other person or body before taking any actions described in the above 4 bullet points, as well as anything that restricts or limits CFA’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of its volunteers to the wellbeing and safety of the community.

Clearly, these changes were designed to have no impact on the legitimate negotiation of pay and conditions; the improvements to the Fair Work Act simply represent what we have been asking for all along, a fair go for volunteers.

Platitudes and sweet sounding words about how wonderful volunteers are and the important roles they perform are of no consequence, when at its heart, a Commonwealth industrial law was being misused to disrespect, demoralize and subjugate tens of thousands of hard working emergency management volunteers, simply because they choose to receive no payment.

Volunteers ask for very little in return for their contribution to the community. However, what they do ask, is for their ability to perform their duties and protect their communities to remain unhindered. This includes protecting them from Commonwealth legislation being misused to their detriment, and the new legislation now provides that protection.

From the outset, VFBV has affirmed that it will only appear in Fair Work should CFA and the UFU submit an EBA that again tries to interfere with the roles and arrangements impacting upon volunteers. Should the parties agree to genuinely only submit an EBA that restricts itself to the legitimate pay and conditions of its workforce, then VFBV will have no quarrel with it, and will not seek leave to appear in the Commission.

Our aim during this dispute begins and ends with ensuring that industrial arrangements do not try to dismantle the fully integrated nature of CFA, that they don’t discriminate against CFA members simply because they choose not to be paid, and that volunteers can continue to deliver CFA services without interference from agreements in which they have no say.

It has been VFBV’s express position that we have neither the desire nor the right to be involved in legitimate CFA/union negotiations on pay and conditions for paid staff. Our interests are solely limited to those matters that affect volunteers.

We maintain that leadership is about moving forward, and the new legislation now provides CFA and Government the best opportunity to move forward and treat all fire-fighters (paid and not paid) as professionals and treat them with respect; backed by the full force of the law.

Constant misinformation campaigns only serve to extend the disruption and demoralizing impacts of this dispute for everyone involved. If CFA and the UFU put up a fair and lawful enterprise agreement that rewards our paid colleagues with better pay and conditions, while protecting and supporting the CFA volunteers that work alongside them in a fully integrated way, we can all move forward.

*               *               *

You can download a full copy of the legislation here

Published in VFBV News
Tuesday, 25 October 2016 10:18

Important Update for all Volunteers

NOTE TO MEMBERS – 25 October 2016 - Download Media Release Here                                       

IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR ALL VOLUNTEERS

In the last few weeks VFBV has achieved major breakthrough in the long running dispute flowing from the CFA/UFU enterprise bargaining deal (EBA) that undermines the volunteer based nature of CFA, impacts on the way volunteers are supported and work, and overrides CFA decision making including on matters impacting on volunteers.   

VFBV has successfully campaigned for and achieved a change to the Federal Fair Work Act that protects volunteers and ensures the volunteer nature of CFA cannot be undermined by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between CFA and the UFU.  The Federal Fair Work Act changes were approved by the Senate on 10 October with support from all Coalition and cross bench independent Senators other than Senator Lambie from Tasmania, and have been given Royal Assent which confirms them as law as of now.

The changes to the Fair Work Act apply to the current EBA negotiations and also all future CFA EBAs.  This means that VFBV has also achieved the outcome being pursued in the Victorian Supreme Court.  Our core claim in the Supreme Court was to achieve a declaration that it would be unlawful for CFA to enter into the proposed 2016 CFA/UFU EBA because of clauses that contradict and override the CFA Act - the changes to the Federal Fair Work Act now disallow this in federal law.   

As a result, yesterday we reached an agreement with the CFA to draw a conclusion to the Victorian Supreme Court Action.  VFBV is of the view that CFA should revisit the EBA given the changes to the Fair Work Act but instead of testing this in the State Supreme Court it will now be a matter to be tested in the Fair Work Commission under the new arrangements which make it unlawful for the EBA to include arrangements that restrict or limit CFA's ability to:

  • Engage or deploy volunteers
  • Provide support or equipment to volunteers
  • Manage its relationship with or work with any other emergency management body in relation to its volunteers
  • Manage it operations in relation to volunteers
  • Consult with volunteers
  • Or require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA by the CFA Act in relation to volunteers.

This doesn’t mean our legal action is over completely but it does make the path ahead clearer.  Instead of continuing our costly legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court, the focus of our advocacy and legal action will now shift to the Federal sphere and play out in the Fair Work Commission and from there the Federal court system if required.  We will also be freed up to focus on potential challenge to the Fair Work Amendment in the High Court of Australia as threatened by the UFU.  At the Federal level we will not be alone – the Fair Work Commission now has clear rules to follow which protect emergency service volunteers; the Federal Employment Minister has also committed to challenge the EBA at the full bench of the Fair Work Commission if required, and if the matter goes to the High Court then the Federal Government will have a keen interest in defending the robustness of their legislation.

The change to the Federal laws (Fair Work Act) now achieves what VFBV have been seeking from the Victorian Supreme Court.  Our efforts from here on are better devoted to ensuring the federal arrangements for protecting the future of CFA hold firm, working to ensure CFA and others are focussed on supporting and strengthening volunteerism for the benefit of future generations and getting on with protecting our communities. 

It was never our wish to be held up in a protracted court case.  We think VFBV and volunteers can now set the scene by proactive leadership to ensure CFA remains a strong and successful volunteer based organisation where paid staff and volunteer work side by side for the benefit of the communities we serve. 

The Supreme Court action has been fundamental in our efforts to prevent the CFA and UFU using the loophole that previously existed in the Fair Work Act to enable the CFA Board to enter into an EBA that we say is beyond the lawful intent and powers of the CFA Act.  The CFA will no longer be able to use this loophole.   Our action in the Supreme Court has been costly and resource intensive.  VFBV greatly appreciates the support and monetary donations that have made the Supreme Court action possible.  A big thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign to date.

There is still a possibility that further legal action might be required given that the UFU have claimed they will challenge the Fair Work Act amendment in the High Court and there is also real possibility that VFBV will need to defend the rights of volunteers in the Federal sphere so we will continue fund raising to support our legal action and further campaign efforts.

VFBV will also be arranging detailed briefings for every VFBV District Council to explain the success achieved by the change to the Fair Work Act, the outcomes achieved by our Victorian Supreme Court Action and the work remaining in the Federal sphere.  VFBV will be working hard with CFA and Government to provide the leadership required to ensure CFA remains a great place to volunteer and an organisation ready to serve communities.  There is a lot of work to do, and with summer on our door step we want to get on with it as quickly as possible.

SUMMARY OF CHANGES TO THE FAIR WORK ACT

The changes to the Fair Work Act make it unlawful for organisations such as CFA to have EBA arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to:

  • Engage or deploy volunteers
  • Provide support or equipment to volunteers
  • Manage its relationship with or work with any other emergency management body in relation to its volunteers
  • Manage it operations in relation to volunteers

The changes to the Fair Work Act prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require CFA to consult or reach agreement with any other person or body before taking any action regarding the things listed above.  The changes to the Fair Work Act also disallow the CFA from having EBA arrangements that restrict or limit CFA’s ability to recognise, value, respect or promote the contribution of CFA volunteers to the wellbeing and safety of the community.  And the changes prohibit the CFA from having EBA arrangements that require or permit CFA to act other than in accordance with the powers, functions and duties conferred or imposed on CFA (ie by the CFA Act) in relation to volunteers.

The changes also enable VFBV to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) when matters before the FWC affect, or could affect, CFA volunteers.  To date VFBV has been locked out of any ability to raise concerns in the FWC even when matters contained in the CFA/UFU EBA directly impacted on volunteers.

Published in VFBV News

UPDATE OCTOBER 2016 – WA Parliament passes firefighters’ cancer law for volunteers

WA Passes Firefighters' Cancer Law

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

 

Notes for Volunteers – 12 October 2015

Firefighters’ Cancer Law – it’s time for action in Victoria

Victorian Government promises legislation, but with a disturbing lack of detail

It is time for action; Queensland has passed legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation that treats volunteers and staff equally, while Victorian volunteers have been given promises, but no details and no action.

CFA volunteers have been told the Victorian Government will bring in legislation in 2016, but there are few details and significant unanswered questions;

  •          Will the legislation be retrospective – if a volunteer is diagnosed with cancer today, will they be protected?
  •          Will the legislation treat career and volunteer firefighters equally?  Queensland and South Australian legislation does, but the older, out of date legislation in Tasmania does not.

Volunteers across Victoria need to show the Government that like Queensland and South Australian volunteers, they won’t accept extra eligibility requirements such as arbitrary turnout thresholds that apply to volunteers but not their career colleagues.

Victoria’s now Deputy Premier and Minister for Emergency Services, James Merlino, said at a volunteer rally on 15 June 2014, ‘there shouldn’t be any reason why we have to wait for presumptive rights legislation here in Victoria’, which leaves volunteers wondering why we are still waiting.

QUEENSLAND AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA HAVE SHOWN HOW IT IS DONE

Queensland passed its presumptive legislation for fairer and simpler cancer compensation for firefighters on 17 September 2015.

The Queensland legislation treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and names the same 12 cancers and years of service requirements as are listed in the legislation already introduced by the Commonwealth and most States.  It is the law that the incoming Victorian Government promised CFA volunteers before the 2014 State Election.

Queensland has followed the other Parliaments in recognising that firefighters are more prone to certain types of cancer, and removing a long standing barrier that blocks sick firefighters from receiving the cancer compensation to which they are entitled.

Queensland’s legislation reverses the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related, provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.   

This legislation is not a free ride; the firefighter’s claim can still be rejected if it can be proved that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

QLD VOLUNTEERS TREATED FAIRLY DESPITE UFU CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEM

Queensland’s law was passed after a Parliamentary Committee compared the issues, including the Labor Government’s proposal for a discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents before they qualify for compensation; a relic from the out of date Tasmanian law.

VFBV provided a submission, calling for legislation treating career and volunteer firefighters equally while listing the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements used in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation.

Disappointingly, the United Firefighters’ Union of Australia’s submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Committee called for volunteers to show “a specified minimum of exposure incidents (150)”, but no such requirement for the staff working alongside them.

The UFU submission was surprising given that VFBV and UFU have been pursuing a joint campaign in Victoria since 2012 to ensure all Victorian career and volunteer firefighters are provided with access to their rightful entitlements in the event that they contract cancer.

Queensland’s Parliamentary Committee dropped the discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents, before the legislation went to a vote.

The Queensland legislation as passed on 17 September 2015.  The Chair of the Parliamentary Committee, Labor MP Di Farmer, told the Queensland Parliament, “We were unable to identify any scientific basis for the inclusion of the 150 exposure incidents as being the appropriate measure for exposure by volunteer rural firefighters.”

THE SITUATION IN VICTORIA

Victoria and NSW are the only States left with no legislation to help firefighters with cancer.

Victorian firefighters still face the near impossible barrier that all of the burden of proof is on them.  The sick firefighter is expected to come up with the evidence, often more than exists in CFA’s own files, when the cause of their cancer could be a fire or chemical spill 10 or 15 years ago.

Before the 2014 State Election, Victorian Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.

Since the election, the new Government has promised to introduce legislation in 2016, but has not come up with any details, leaving significant unanswered questions.  The Government has told the media it is talking to stakeholders, although VFBV’s most recent letter to the Minister on presumptive legislation remains unanswered.

The State Government is well aware of our concerns over any possible discrimination in the form of extra eligibility requirements that only apply to volunteers, however, the Government’s letters to a number of volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

WHAT VOLUNTEERS CAN DO NOW   

Speak up now.  Don’t wait until you know a volunteer who has cancer, and don’t wait until the State Government introduces discriminatory or inadequate legislation for Victoria.

  •          Ask your local Member of Parliament for their support – go and see them, write them a letter or send an email
  •          Raise the issue with your local media
  •          Post a comment or a meme on Facebook
  •          Talk to other volunteers and encourage them to speak up now

Call (03) 9886 1141 or talk to your VFBV State Councillor if you need advice, assistance or your local MP or newspaper’s contact details.

Questions to ask your State MP:

  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that treats career and volunteer firefighters equally?
  •          Do they support presumptive legislation that is retrospective, so volunteers are covered if they have cancer now, or are diagnosed before the legislation is passed?
  •          Will the MP raise the issue in Parliament now and call for an end to the delay?

For CFA volunteers suffering from work related cancer, the promised Victorian legislation can’t come fast enough, and it important that all CFA volunteers send a simple message to Members on both sides of Parliament; we are sick of waiting.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The cancers and years-of-service eligibility requirements that appear in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation are;

Primary site brain cancer (5 years)

Primary site testicular cancer (10 years)

Primary site bladder cancer (15 years)

Multiple myeloma (15 years)

Primary site kidney cancer (15 years)

Primary site prostate cancer (15 years)

Primary non-Hodgkins lymphoma (15 years)

Primary site ureter cancer (15 years)

Primary leukaemia (5 years)

Primary site colorectal cancer (15 years)

Primary site breast cancer (10 years)

Primary site oesophageal cancer (25 years)

 Return to VFBV website front page

Published in Uncategorised
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 09:31

WA Passes Firefighters' Cancer Law

The Western Australian Parliament has just passed its Firefighters’ Cancer Law for volunteers, adding to the momentum of presumptive legislation around the country and the pressure for legislation in Victoria.

Tell your MPs it is time for presumptive legislation in Victoria that lists the same 12 cancers named in other States, treats career and volunteer firefighters equally, and includes retrospective coverage for firefighters who have already been diagnosed.

Presumptive legislation works by reversing the onus of proof.  The cancer is presumed to be work related provided it is one of 12 listed cancers and the firefighter has sufficient years of service.  

The WA legislation was supported by the Liberal National Government, the Labor Opposition, Upper House Greens and independent MPs, however it does not match the standard set by Queensland and South Australia, which treat career and volunteer firefighters equally.

Unlike their career colleagues, WA volunteers are expected to show they have attended at least five hazardous fires – structure and vehicle fires - each year for five years.

Victorian firefighters are still waiting for the legislation they were promised, and there are still unanswered questions. 

Before the 2014 State Election, Labor announced that “Victorian legislation for career and volunteer firefighters will reflect the cancers covered and timeframes for duty of service as in the Tasmanian legislation” and explicitly contained no reference to unequal treatment or extra eligibility requirements for volunteers.  However, the Government’s letters to volunteers since the election have hinted that it is considering imposing a requirement for an arbitrary number of turnouts before a volunteer becomes eligible for compensation.

Your local MPs need to know that volunteers are tired of waiting and will not accept being treated differently just because they are not paid.

Find your Member of Parliament's contact details here.

Find your Upper House Members of Parliament here.

Learn more at the VFBV Firefighters' Cancer Law page.

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 00:00

Send an Email Today

SUPPORT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT OUR VOLUNTEER BASED CFA

- DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS/COMMENTS: 12 SEPTEMBER

The proposed Federal legislation to protect the volunteer based CFA and other volunteer based emergency services from industrial interference is now being examined by a Senate Committee.

The Senate Committee is encouraging volunteers to send in submissions/comments by 12 September 2016send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (see the message from the Senate Committee below)

Submissions can be a simple email to show your support, or a detailed submission on what’s at stake and why the legislation is so important.

The Senate Committee will recommend whether Parliament should support the legislation or not.

There is more information below, or see the VFBV website item on the Federal Government’s Volunteer Protection Amendments to the Fair Work Act

See below for the Senate Committee’s invitation to volunteers.

 

MORE INFORMATION

Click here for our 22 August Update to Members, which explains the volunteers’ concerns and the need for the Federal legislation. (if the Click Here link doesn’t work, see below)

The proposed Federal legislation would make a simple change to the Fair Work Act, making it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s (in our case CFA) ability to:

•             engage or deploy its volunteers;

•             provide support or equipment to those volunteers;

•             manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;

•             otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

The legislation will also provide an ability for volunteers, through bodies such as VFBV, to make submissions to Fair Work Australia in respect of these issues if we have any concerns.

 

The Enterprise Bargaining Agreement – Key matters of concern

Current Commonwealth industrial law means that if the CFA/United Firefighters Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement is registered:

•             The powers of the Chief Officer will be overridden;

•             The union will be given power of veto on issues affecting volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, operations and support;

•             Volunteer consultation rights under the CFA Volunteer Charter will be restricted; 

•             Other clauses in the EBA that are contrary to the CFA Act will apply; and

•             Volunteers will be treated as second class just because they are not paid.

 

 

MESSAGE FROM SENATE COMMITTEE CHAIR, SENATOR BRIDGET MCKENZIE

Dear CFA Volunteers,

Just last week, the Federal Government introduced legislation to protect CFA volunteers from a proposal put forward by the Victorian Government together with the United Firefighters Union.

It is apparent that many CFA members think this proposal discriminates against their rights and role as a volunteer.  The former Board of the CFA agreed and we

re subsequently sacked by the Victorian Government for raising their concerns. The Minister responsible for the CFA, Jane Garrett, was also forced to resign because she could not support the proposal.

Given the seriousness of this issue, the Federal Government has acted quickly to introduce legislation that seeks to protect volunteers and bring this dispute to an end.  This legislation - the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 has been referred to the Senate Employment Committee for an inquiry.  This inquiry will take submissions from people who have been impacted by the proposal.

After considering the submissions, the Committee will then make a recommendation on whether the Parliament should support the legislation.

As Chair of this Senate Committee I am inviting you, and other CFA volunteers, to make a submission.

Submissions can be as short or as long as you like and can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The deadline for submission is 12 September 2016.  This is your chance to have your say, in your own words. The committee and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards

Bridget McKenzie

Senator for Victoria

Chair, Education and Employment Legislation Committee

 

 

 

Published in VFBV News

UPDATE FOR MEMBERS - 23 AUGUST 2016

Yesterday, Monday 22 August, the Federal Government released its draft legislation, the Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill 2016 in accordance with its commitment made during the Federal Election (you can download a copy of the Bill below).

VFBV was able to provide valuable input to the development of the legislation, and we are very pleased that it has shaped up in a way that we believe meets our concerns and deals with the practical issues affecting volunteers.

The legislation will be a simple change to the Fair Work Act, making it objectionable for workplace agreements to restrict or limit the emergency service organisation’s ability to:

  •          engage or deploy its volunteers;
  •          provide support or equipment to those volunteers;
  •          manage its relationship with, or work with, any recognised emergency management body in relation to those volunteers;
  •          otherwise manage its operations in relation to those volunteers;

The legislation will also provide an ability for volunteers, through bodies such as VFBV, to make submissions to Fair Work Australia in respect of these issues if we have any concerns.

The amendments aim to fix an anomaly in Commonwealth law that affects CFA volunteers and the volunteers of other emergency service organisations covered by the Fair Work Act. The anomaly, which has been of concern over recent months, allows enterprise agreements for paid emergency service workers to override State emergency management laws such as the CFA Act.

For CFA volunteers, the anomaly means that if the proposed UFU agreement was adopted under current Commonwealth industrial law, it would effectively allow industrial interference into the organisation, operation and support of CFA volunteers, and CFA decision making affecting volunteers.

The Federal Government proposes to table the legislation next week, the first sitting week of the new Parliament.  We are hopeful that it will get support from all sides of politics in both Houses of Parliament, and volunteers from Victoria and other States will be working with MPs and Senators to explain the need for, and benefits of, the legislation and the importance of it to volunteers.

The legislation has no impact on pay negotiations, but does provide a mechanism to address the concerns that have been broadly discussed about the current EBA.

The votes of independents and smaller parties may be crucial in getting the legislation through the Senate, and there are some early signs of support.  Newly elected Senator Derryn Hinch has been on radio this morning, expressing his support, and South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has written to the Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations (CAVFA), expressing his support for moves to rectify the anomaly, so we are hopeful that this is a sign of support to come.

In the meantime, VFBV’s preparation for the Supreme Court action beginning on 22 September is under way, and one of the most important things Brigades can be doing is helping us promote the fundraising for this initiative, and encouraging people to support volunteers by visiting our website www.vfbv.com.au to make a donation, or fundraising through work with community groups, sausage sizzles and other local efforts.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews, the new Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino, the CFA Board and management, and the UFU Secretary Peter Marshall, have all made claims that they have no intention of the EBA negatively impacting on the role of volunteers, the provision of support to volunteers or CFA decision making.  As such, we would expect that they have no problem with the proposed Fair Work legislation, and therefore we expect their support also.

We disagree with their assessment as to whether the proposed EBA does or does not impact on volunteers, and as such we see the Fair Work Act legislative amendment as very sensible and very necessary protection for volunteers and the work we do.

Published in VFBV News

Updated 11 March 2016 - Here's a list of Victorian MPs who have signed the pledge to support firefighters with cancer and vote for non-discriminatory presumptive legislation for all Victorian firefighters.

Members of Parliament - If you've signed but are not listed here, or if you would like to sign the pledge, contact VFBV on (03) 9886 1141.

Volunteers - If your local MPs have not yet signed the pledge, see our Presumptive Legislation page to download a copy and see more information on the firefighters' cancer issue.

Member (in alphabetical order)

Electorate

Neil Angus

Forest Hill

Gary Blackwood

Narracan

Tim Bull

Gippsland East

Brad Battin

Gembrook

Roma Britnell

South West Coast

Neale Burgess

Hastings

Robert Clark

Box Hill

Peter Crisp

Mildura

Martin Dixon

Nepean

Margaret Fitzherbert

Southern Metropolitan

Christine Fyffe

Evelyn

Matthew Guy

Bulleen

Colleen Hartland

Western Metropolitan

Andrew Katos

South Barwon

Emma Kealy

Lowan

Wendy Lovell

Northern Victoria

Tim McCurdy

Ovens Valley

Cindy McLeish

Eildon

David Morris

Mornington

Russell Northe

Morwell

Danny O’Brien

Gippsland South

Craig Ondarchie

Northern Metropolitan

Brian Paynter

Bass

John Pesutto

Hawthorn

Simon Ramsay

Western Victoria

Dee Ryall

Ringwood

Steph Ryan

Euroa

Ryan Smith

Warrandyte

Tim Smith

Kew

David Southwick

Caulfield

Louise Staley

Ripon

Murray Thompson

Sandringham

Bill Tilley

Benambra

Heidi Victoria

Bayswater

Nick Wakeling

Ferntree Gully

Peter Walsh

Murray Plains

Kim Wells

Rowville

Mary Wooldridge

Eastern Metropolitan

 Return to the Presumptive Legislation page

 

Published in Uncategorised
Thursday, 10 September 2015 00:00

Good News from Qld on Cancer Law

UPDATED 14 SEPTEMBER; There's good news from Queensland on presumptive legislation – the Firefighters' Cancer Law - a Queensland Parliamentary Committee has recommended legislation that treats paid and volunteer firefighters equally, and names the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements that appear in other States’ legislation.

The Queensland Parliamentary Committee had been tasked with comparing two different versions of presumptive legislation, one from the Queensland Labor Government, the other supported by the Coalition.

Queensland Labor’s Bill includes a discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposure incidents before they qualify for compensation, while the Coalition-supported Bill treats career and volunteer firefighters equally.  The two Bills are expected to go to a vote in the Queensland Parliament soon, possibly in a matter of days.

VFBV’s submission to the Parliamentary Committee called for legislation treating career and volunteer firefighters equally while listing the same 12 cancers and years-of-service requirements used in the Commonwealth and other States’ legislation.

The United Firefighters’ Union’s submission called for volunteers to show “a specified minimum of exposure incidents (150)”, but no such requirement for the staff working alongside them.

The UFU submission is surprising and disappointing because VFBV and UFU have been pursuing a joint campaign in Victoria since 2012 to ensure all Victorian career and volunteer firefighters are provided with access to their rightful entitlements in the event that they contract cancer, and VFBV will follow up this issue with UFU Secretary Peter Marshall.

VFBV urged the Queensland Committee to follow South Australia’s lead, where experience shows the actual cost of treating volunteers equally is a tiny fraction of the estimates made before the legislation was enacted, and the discriminatory extra requirement that volunteers show 150 exposures has now been dropped.

Click here to see the Queensland announcement on the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ) website.

Click here to see VFBV's recent media release, explaining presumptive legisaltion and the importance of treating paid and volunteer firefighters equally.

 

 

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 16 July 2015 00:00

Cancer Law Battle in Queensland

With presumptive legislation at the committee stage in the Queensland Parliament, Queensland’s Labor Government is now trying to introduce a discriminatory extra eligibility requirement for volunteers.

With a private member’s Bill already proposing presumptive legislation that treats career and volunteer firefighters alike, the Queensland Government has introduced a Bill of its own that would introduce a discriminatory clause that only applies to volunteers and would require volunteers with cancer to have a minimum of 150 “exposure incidents” before they can qualify for presumptive compensation.

South Australian volunteers have already fought and won the battle against legislation requiring volunteers to have arbitrary numbers of turnouts, and the Queensland volunteers are gearing up to do the same, making sure Queensland Government MPs know exactly how they feel.

See the Queensland volunteers’ latest bulletin with their call to action.

 

 

Published in VFBV News

VFBV MEDIA RELEASE - 9 June 2015

CFA Volunteers are watching with considerable interest as the Queensland Parliament begins the process to enact a law which gives all firefighters in Queensland - paid and volunteer - fairer cancer compensation rights.

Presumptive legislation now being enacted in most States except Victoria, works by reversing the onus of proof; the firefighter’s cancer would be presumed to be work related provided the firefighter has sufficient years of service. The claim could still be rejected if it could be proven the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Andrew Ford said the legislation is not about a new entitlement, it is about removing an unfair barrier that blocks sick firefighters from receiving the cancer compensation to which they are entitled.

“It’s just a reversal of the onus of proof. Until now, Queensland firefighters have faced the same unfair barrier as Victorian firefighters; the near impossible task of providing sufficient evidence to prove the cause of the cancer arose from particular fires, incidents or other work duties - events that might have happened 10, 15 or more years ago,” Mr Ford said.

“The Queensland presumptive legislation is the fairer and simpler cancer compensation law that Victoria’s CFA volunteers have been promised, and are still waiting to see,” he said.

“Queensland is joining South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania, in moving to take away the unfair barrier that stops firefighters from accessing compensation when they suffer typical firefighter cancers,” he said.

The Bill now before the Queensland Parliament specifically provides that there will be no discrimination between paid and volunteer firefighters, under the new cancer compensation rights. The Queensland Bill lists the same 12 cancers and minimum lengths of service required to qualify as are standard under the laws adopted by the Commonwealth and most Australian States and Territories, but not Victoria as yet.

The Queensland Bill is what the current Victorian Labor Government promised Victorian firefighters in the lead up to the last election – it uses the same list of 12 cancers and the same years of service requirements as the current law in Tasmania, but without any additional eligibility hurdles that discriminate against volunteers.

“Current Tasmanian law includes additional discriminatory requirements that must be met by their volunteer firefighters, but thankfully these were not part of Victorian Labor’s commitment to CFA volunteers,” Mr Ford said.

“South Australia had similar discriminatory requirements in their original legislation but have now deleted them and given volunteers the same eligibility requirements as the paid firefighters who work alongside them,” he said.

“We are hopeful that the Victorian Government will be in a position to announce details to support their promise at last year’s election, in the very near future,” Mr Ford said.

CFA volunteers who have contracted cancer currently face the difficulty that as volunteers they have no firefighter sick leave or superannuation to fall back on. Victorian law leaves all firefighters, career and volunteer alike, battling red tape and sometimes a long legal battle just to get a fair hearing, whilst they are forced to prove which fires or incidents might have caused their cancer.

It is nearly impossible to meet the standard of proof required by current Victorian law, just as it was under the laws that other States have replaced with fairer presumptive legislation for firefighters with cancer.

“After years of procrastination by the previous Victorian Government on presumptive cancer compensation rights for Victorian volunteer and career firefighters, Labor promised presumptive legislation just like the law that Queensland is now enacting,” Mr Ford said.

“For our CFA volunteer members suffering from work related cancer, the implementation of this Labor promise can’t come fast enough,” he said.

Ends…

Published in VFBV News

VFBV MEDIA RELEASE

CFA volunteers cautiously welcome Coalition’s cancer announcement

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, the CFA volunteers’ association, says that on face value the coalition’s announcement of a commitment to presumptive legislation for Victorian firefighters sounds like the makings of good news.

"We cautiously welcome this morning’s announcement, but await the detail, to confirm the Coalition’s commitment delivers the cancer compensation arrangements that we have been seeking for the past three years,” said Mr Andrew Ford, VFBV Chief Executive Officer.

“The issue is very important to Victoria’s volunteer and career firefighters,” he said.

“VFBV has been stepping up its campaign with tens of thousands of signatures on a petition to Parliament and increasing community awareness and support.”

“There are 12 cancers included in the presumptive legislation arrangements federally and in other states, and we expect the same in Victoria,” Mr Ford said.

“We would expect the detail of the Coalition’s commitment contains at least the same standards, and we look forward to the Government providing the information to us as soon as possible,” he said.

Current Victorian compensation arrangements have meant that it is almost impossible to access cancer compensation because the firefighter has to show evidence of fires or incidents they attended that might be 10 or 15 years ago and prove on the balance of probabilities which incidents or which toxic exposures caused their cancer.

Presumptive legislation would work by reversing the onus of proof – the firefighter’s cancer would be presumed to be work related provided the firefighter has sufficient years of service. A firefighter’s claim could still be rejected if it could be proven that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

Federal legislation and laws in South Australia, WA, Tasmania and NT recognise 12 specific cancers to be covered by presumptive legislation for firefighters.

Published in VFBV News
Friday, 10 October 2014 00:00

First Batch of Petitions goes to Parliament

UPDATED 25 OCTOBER 2014: Liberal MP Neale Burgess' statement to the Victorian Parliament after tabling part of the CFA Volunteers' Cancer Petition, which calls on the Government to fix problems with the existing firefighters’ cancer compensation process.

Mr BURGESS (Hastings) -- Earlier this week I tabled a petition that represented half of a petition with a total of more than 60 000 signatures. The petitioners are seeking simpler cancer compensation arrangements for Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer firefighters and their career colleagues.

Victorian firefighters, both paid and volunteer, are a very special breed of people; they are people who choose to put their lives at risk to keep ours safe. We are particularly fortunate in Victoria because, while we have some of the most dangerous fire conditions in the world, we also have some of the very best firefighters in the world.

The issue is one confronting all firefighters, paid and volunteer alike.

In Victoria, paid and volunteer firefighters work side by side, attend the same incidents, face the same risks and are exposed to the same toxins. Technically, all Victorian firefighters are already entitled to compensation for work-related cancer, but the current onus of proof arrangements require the firefighter to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the cancer arose from attendance at particular fires or incidents or other work duties. They may be events that occurred over the last 10 to 15 years, or even more. For most firefighters this is difficult because of the absence of sufficient records, data or analysis held by the CFA on each event a firefighter attends.

Under commonwealth jurisdiction and some state laws, the law lists 12 cancers known to be more common to firefighters, and presumes them to be work related if a firefighter has sufficient years of service, effectively reversing the onus of proof.

The CFA volunteers are asking for legislation that will take the burden of proof away from the sick firefighters and, importantly, that will treat all firefighters, volunteer and paid, as equals.

My own electorate is in an area protected by CFA volunteers, but that is not unusual -- CFA brigades protective 60 per cent of suburban Melbourne -- --

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) -- Order! The member's time has expired.

See the VFBV media release here

VFBV is hopeful the presentation of these petitions to the Victorian Parliament next week will help convince MPs of all parties to fix a problem that has now been fixed in most other States across Australia.

16,000 signatures are included in this first batch, making this one of the largest petitions to be presented to the current Parliament. In the meantime, the campaign continues and volunteers are urged to keep collecting signatures and posting completed petitions to VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

The first batch of petitions was lodged with the assistance of Labor MP for Narre Warren North, Luke Donnellan, and Liberal MP for Hastings, Neale Burgess (Pictured).

Please post signed petitions to:

VFBV Cancer Petition, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

Published in VFBV News

The Greens will be raising the issue of presumptive/cancer legislation for firefighters in the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament tomorrow, Wednesday 17 September, about 4pm.

They’ll be calling for the support of all parties.

This issue affects all CFA volunteers, so you are welcome to attend to sit in the gallery, hear the debate & show your support.

The address is Parliament House, Spring Street, Melbourne.

Get there early, visitors/observers are welcome but there are formalities with security.

Published in VFBV News
Sunday, 15 June 2014 00:00

CFA Volunteers Launch Cancer Petition

MEDIA RELEASE - Sunday, 15 June 2014

The CFA volunteers’ association is calling on all Victorians to sign a petition to help firefighters to get fairer and simpler cancer compensation.

Speaking at a rally of hundreds of CFA volunteers at Scoresby on Sunday, Andrew Ford of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (pictured) said the volunteers are campaigning to get rid of an unfair barrier that prevents firefighters from getting the compensation they have been promised.

“We have been working with the Government and opposition parties for several years, but firefighters who suffer from cancer that’s related to their firefighting services are still facing an almost impossible barrier, right when they are sick and most in need of help,” Mr Ford said.

“The problem is in proving the cancer was work related, whether it be for a volunteer firefighter or one of their career colleagues,” he said.

“Unlike a broken bone, cancer can take many years to appear, leaving the firefighter with the nearly impossible task of proving that one particular incident caused the cancer.”

“It effectively says you are entitled to the compensation, but when you get sick, you can’t have it,” Mr Ford said.

The CFA volunteers are now collecting signatures for a statewide petition, calling on the Victorian Parliament to change the law so the onus of proof is reversed.

“Certain types of cancer are known to be more common in firefighters, and we need Victoria to follow the lead of the Australian, Tasmanian, West Australian and South Australian

Parliaments in recognising those 12 cancers and presuming them to be work related if the sick firefighter has sufficient years of service,” Mr Ford said.

“The firefighters’ cancer law would relieve the sick CFA volunteer of the almost impossible task of proving the cancer was work related, and would allow them to concentrate on their treatment and recovery, instead of a lengthy court case,” he said.

“As the CFA volunteers’ association, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria is distributing the Firefighters’ Cancer Petition to every district in the state, and we call on every Victorian to sign the petition and show support for the volunteers who do so much to protect the community.”

The Firefighters’ Cancer Petition calls on the Victorian Parliament to introduce legislation based on the Australian Parliament’s legislation, listing 12 known firefighter cancers, with equal coverage for volunteer firefighters and their career colleagues.

You can download the petition and learn more about presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, at the CFA volunteers’ website; www.vfbv.com.au

CFA Brigades protect 60% of suburban Melbourne, regional cities and all of country Victoria, every day and night of the year.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Firefighters’ Cancer Law and how you can help

 

Published in VFBV News

More than 450 CFA volunteers and their families have attended a rally organised by volunteers in District 13 to draw attention to the need for a firefighters’ cancer law.

The proposed law would provide access to fair compensation for firefighters suffering cancer caused by exposure to smoke and chemicals during their firefighting duties.

Organised by local volunteers from the eastern suburbs and Yarra Valley, the event attracted CFA volunteers, their friends and families and fire trucks from all over suburban Melbourne and country Victoria.

Event organiser, CFA volunteer and VFBV District 13 President Bill Watson AFSM (pictured, addressing the rally) said, “There is plenty of evidence that firefighters are more likely to suffer certain types of cancer. We are entitled to compensation, but that all falls apart when the sick firefighter is required to prove which fire or chemical incident caused the cancer.”

“It’s not like a broken bone where you know exactly when and where it happened. The burning car or house fire you attend today may cause a cancer that doesn’t show up for decades, which makes it nearly impossible to prove it was work-related,” Mr. Watson said.

“The solution is presumptive legislation, a law that lists the 12 typical firefighter cancers and presumes them to be work-related, providing the firefighter has enough years of service behind them and relevant risk exposure.”

The Australian Parliament passed firefighters’ cancer legislation called the Fair Protection for Firefighters Bill, in 2011. Since then Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia have all passed their own presumptive legislation, recognising the connection between firefighting and cancer.

Mr. Watson says, Coalition, Labor and Greens Members of Parliament were invited to address the rally. “CFA volunteers are calling on all of the political parties and every member of the Victorian Parliament to help solve this problem.”

“We are looking for a law that applies equally to frontline CFA volunteers and the staff firefighters who work alongside them. The smoke and chemicals don’t discriminate, nor should compensation for sick firefighters,” he said.

“CFA volunteers in suburban Melbourne and country Victoria protect the community every

day and night of the year,” Mr Watson said.

“We are now asking all members of the Victorian Parliament to pass a firefighters’ cancer law that supports sick firefighters in their time of need.”

VFBV HAS LAUNCHED A STATEWIDE PETITION CALLING FOR A CHANGE IN THE LAW

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Firefighters’ Cancer Law and how you can help

Published in VFBV News
Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00

First Batch of Petitions goes to Parliament

UPDATED 25 OCTOBER 2014

Labor MP Luke Donnellan's statement to the Victorian Parliament, after tabling part of the first batch of 16,000 signatures on the CFA Volunteers' Cancer Petition, which calls on the Government to fix problems with the existing firefighters’ cancer compensation process.

Mr DONNELLAN (Narre Warren North) -- I congratulate Country Fire Authority volunteers on the collection over a short period of time of well over 16 000 signatures to petitions about presumptive legislation in relation to firefighters, both volunteer and full time.

We on this side of the house recognise that there is a direct link between fighting fires and certain types of cancer. We also note that the commonwealth Parliament passed, in a bipartisan way, presumptive legislation which allows recognition of that link and changes the onus of proof from the firefighter. Therefore firefighters are able to make a claim against WorkCover based on the presumption that certain types of firefighting and chemicals can result in cancer.

Over a period of, I think, two months the volunteers collected well over 16 000 signatures to petitions. The government to date has been silent. At the moment there is an inquiry going on at Monash University. I know there are many members of the government who support the idea of presumptive legislation and who are pushing internally in relation to that, but we on this side of the house have fully supported it for the 60 000 volunteers and the full-time firefighters.

See the VFBV media release here

VFBV is hopeful the presentation of these petitions to the Victorian Parliament next week will help convince MPs of all parties to fix a problem that has now been fixed in most other States across Australia.

16,000 signatures are included in this first batch, making this one of the largest petitions to be presented to the current Parliament. In the meantime, the campaign continues and volunteers are urged to keep collecting signatures and posting completed petitions to VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

The first batch of petitions was lodged with the assistance of Labor MP for Narre Warren North, Luke Donnellan (Pictured), and Liberal MP for Hastings, Neale Burgess.

Please post signed petitions to:

VFBV Cancer Petition, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the petition kit, including instructions for its use and a leaflet explaining the issue to the public.

Published in VFBV News

<Update 16 May 2014> The first donations have been received.

Click here for the full story on Presumptive Legislation - the Firefighters' Cancer Law

Click here for our Notes for Volunteers on how donating the Trust Fund can help

VFBV invites you to help us to step up the campaign for presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, by making a donation today.

See below to donate online now, or for details of how to make a bank transfer or donation by cheque.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection Fund is a specific purpose trust account to help meet the costs of the campaign for presumptive legislation for firefighters and building awareness of firefighter-related illnesses, the development of protections where possible and financial compensation protection for firefighters and their families, including;

  • Enabling research and analysis about VFFOI
  • Working with volunteer firefighters and members of the public to understand the effect of VFFOI on their families and communities
  • Working with volunteer firefighters and members of the community to recognise VFFOI and to take necessary preventative measures to protect the health and well-being of volunteer fire fighters
  • Protecting the rights and integrity of volunteer fire fighters who suffer from VFFOI by taking such steps as are necessary to recognise and entrench their legal rights to compensation where they suffer from VFFOI and, where necessary and in the sole and absolute discretion of the Trustees, fund test cases before the appropriate courts and tribunals to determine such rights.

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection Fund is clearly aimed at supporting our pursuit of presumptive legislation and fair protection for firefighters.

Funds raised will assist our campaign efforts and possible test case pursuit, but will not extend to covering personal illness related compensation as we clearly see this as an obligation for the CFA volunteer compensation arrangements.

You can click here to make a donation;

Send a cheque to;

The Volunteer Fire Fighters Occupational Illnesses (VFFOI) Awareness and Protection Fund

PO Box 453

Mt Waverley 3149

Or transfer funds to Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria's Bendigo Bank account; BSB 633-000 Account Number 151841970

Brigades, Groups and District Councils, as well as the public, are invited to donate to the fund

Raise the issue of presumptive legislation/the firefighters’ cancer law at any opportunity with Members of Parliament, local media and online

Want to know more about the issue?  You can download VFBV’s Notes for MPs and Notes for Volunteers by clicking here

Any questions?  Call VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 30 October 2014 00:00

VFBV seeks donations for cancer law campaign

VFBV is preparing to step up the campaign for presumptive legislation, the firefighters’ cancer law, by inviting donations to support the campaign.

The VFBV Presumptive Legislation Campaign Trust Account is a specific purpose trust account to meet the costs of VFBV’s campaign for presumptive legislation for firefighters, including;

•             Provision of information to members and the public

•             Research and analysis

•             Legal support, and

•             Legal representation costs relevant to the pursuit of presumptive legislation, including but not limited to test cases as deemed necessary.

We will be advertising broadly to encourage the support of the public and volunteers for this fund raising effort, and a donation facility will be added to this website in a few days.  In the meantime, anyone wishing to make a donation or ask a question should call VFBV on (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The VFBV Presumptive Legislation Campaign Trust Fund is clearly aimed at supporting our pursuit of presumptive legislation and fair protection for firefighters.

Funds raised will assist our campaign efforts and possible test case pursuit, but will not extend to covering personal illness related compensation as we clearly see this as an obligation for the CFA volunteer compensation arrangements.

What volunteers can do;

  •          Brigades, Groups and District Councils, as well as the public, are invited to donate to the fund - call (03) 9886 1141 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make a pledge, an online facility will be available soon
  •          Raise the issue of presumptive legislation/the firefighters’ cancer law at any opportunity with Members of Parliament, local media and online

 You can download VFBV’s Notes for MPs and Notes for Volunteers by clicking here

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 00:00

CFA VOLUNTEERS' CANCER PETITION

UPDATE 7 NOVEMBER 2014 - VFBV Cautiously Welcomes Coalition's Cancer Announcement

Click here for VFBV's response

UPDATE 10 OCTOBER 2014 - First Batch of Petitions goes to Parliament

VFBV has lodged the first batch of petitions being collected across Victoria to urge the Government to fix problems with the existing firefighters’ cancer compensation process.

VFBV is hopeful the presentation of these petitions to the Victorian Parliament next week will help convince MPs of all parties to fix a problem that has now been fixed in most other States across Australia.

Over 17,000 signatures are included in this first batch, making this one of the largest petitions to be presented to the current Parliament. In the meantime, the campaign continues and volunteers are urged to keep collecting signatures and posting completed petitions to VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149.

The first batch of petitions was lodged with the assistance of Labor MP for Narre Warren North, Luke Donnellan, and Liberal MP for Hastings, Neale Burgess.

UPDATE SEPT 22 - SEND IN SIGNED PETITIONS NOW, TO;

VFBV Cancer Petition

PO Box 453

Mt Waverley 3149

And keep collecting signatures to support CFA volunteers with cancer

CLICK HERE to download the 12 page petition

Start collecting today - from friends, family and the community.

Why?  Firefighters are more likely to suffer certain types of cancer, but if they become sick, the existing compensation system makes it almost impossible for them to be looked after.

Other States have fixed the problem, but Victoria lags behind. 

Help Firefighters to cut through the RED TAPE and make it simpler and fairer to access cancer compensation

CLICK HERE to download the big 50 page petition

HOW TO DO IT;

  • The Victorian Parliament requires each signature to have a name and address, and the petition must only be signed on one side of the paper
  • When you have a reasonable batch of signed petitions, send them in and keep collecting
  • Post them to VFBV, PO Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149 (If you need help with the cost of return postage, call the VFBV office on 03 9886 1141)
  • Take the petition everywhere with you
  • Organise your Brigade to collect signatures in shopping streets, at community, church or sporting events – wherever large numbers of people are gathering
  • We need thousands more signatures by 15 September, so send what you have before then

Want to read more about the issue? Download our;

VFBV’s Notes for Volunteers or

VFBV’s Notes for MPs

 

Published in Uncategorised

MEDIA RELEASE

Friday 20 September 2013

FIREFIGHTERS’ CANCER LAW ISSUE NOT FINISHED - VOLUNTEERS

A proposal for fairer compensation for Victorian firefighters with cancer has failed in the Victorian Parliament, but the CFA volunteers’ association says the issue is definitely not finished.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Andrew Ford said CFA volunteers are extremely disappointed and concerned at the way an issue that is so important to them has been treated.

He said the vote in the Upper House of State Parliament this week just raises the question of what the State Government plans to do next.

“Volunteers are seeking a fairer and simpler path to cancer compensation for all Victorian firefighters, and the Government say they are not ruling out this kind of legislation,” Mr Ford said.

“However, Coalition MPs voted against sending the proposed legislation to the Lower House of State Parliament this week, so the legislation has lapsed, which means the ball is now in the Government’s court,” he said.

“The issue won’t go away, volunteer and career firefighters are still more likely to get cancer, current compensation law still forces them to prove a connection between the cancer and a specific date or event, and that is still very close to impossible.”

“How do you prove which fire and which toxins might have caused your cancer when the incident might have been 10 or 15 years ago and just one of the hundreds you have attended?” Mr Ford said.

The legislation had been proposed by the Greens and supported by Labor MPs, it was the vote of Coalition MPs that ended its run in the Upper House on Wednesday.

“Now there is no legislation before Parliament and the State Government has already said it is not ruling out support for this type of legislation, we are in the hands of the Government as to when it will come to Parliament for consideration,” Mr Ford said.

“Volunteers want to know what the Government plans to do now.”

The proposed legislation is presumptive – it would accept that firefighters are more likely to get certain types of cancer and it would presume those cancers to be work-related.

“Presumptive cancer legislation would mean a firefighter with one of those typical firefighter cancers could concentrate on their treatment and recovery instead of a court case.”

In 2011, the Australian Parliament passed presumptive legislation for federally-employed firefighters (including the fire crews at Melbourne Airport) with the support of all of the major parties, after a Senate Inquiry examined the scientific evidence and recommended it go ahead.

Since then, the WA, SA and Tasmanian Governments have accepted the existing scientific evidence and begun work on presumptive legislation for their firefighters.

VFBV and the United Firefighters’ Union are campaigning for presumptive legislation for Victorian firefighters, both volunteer and career.

“We are not asking for any new or extra compensation, just the removal of an unfair barrier to sick firefighters obtaining the compensation to which they are already entitled,” Mr Ford said.

Published in VFBV News

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday 21 August 2013

CFA VOLUNTEERS NOT IMPRESSED BY CANCER ANNOUNCEMENT

The CFA volunteers’ association is unimpressed by the announcement of a new body to deal with compensation claims from firefighters suffering from cancer.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) CEO Andrew Ford said the State Government’s proposed Firefighters’ Assessment Panel does not solve the problem.

"We need new legislation to fix this - firefighters are still more likely to get cancer because of their exposure to smoke and chemicals, and it is still almost impossible for them to prove it was work related because of the nature of the work they do," Mr Ford said.

"Too often they get a legal battle when what they really need is the chance to concentrate on their treatment and recovery," he said.

"It’s even possible the proposed Firefighters’ Assessment Panel will be just another bureaucratic barrier - it is being sold as a way to better support the processing of claims, but we are worried it could just be an even bigger barrier to firefighters getting the compensation to which they are entitled."

VFBV wants presumptive legislation; current Victorian compensation arrangements already provide for cancer compensation, but it is almost impossible to access because the firefighter has to prove the cancer was caused by one particular fire or incident that might have happened 10 or 15 years ago.

The proposed presumptive legislation would work by reversing the onus of proof – the firefighter’s cancer would be presumed to be work related provided the firefighter has sufficient years of service. A firefighter’s claim could still be rejected if it could be proven that the cancer was not related to firefighting duties.

Presumption allows the firefighter to concentrate on treatment and recovery, not a lengthy and expensive battle to prove the cause of their cancer.

"Firefighters are already entitled to compensation for work related cancer, but cancer is not like a broken leg – it’s almost impossible to prove the cancer came from one particular fire that might have been 10 years ago," Mr Ford said.

The Australian Government already has presumptive cancer legislation for federally-employed firefighters, and the West Australian, South Australian and Tasmanian Governments are all introducing similar laws.

"Other Governments in Australia and overseas have already accepted the scientific proof that firefighting leads to a higher risk of certain types of cancer," Mr Ford said.

"Here in Victoria there have been questions from the Government about the cost, and media reports of estimates in the millions – we doubt those estimates are accurate, but if they are, then those millions are just the measure of the cost being paid by firefighters and their families when they become ill, because there’s an unfair barrier to the compensation to which they are entitled," he said.

"CFA volunteers and their career colleagues are not asking for something new or extra, just the removal of that unfair barrier," he said.

Ends…

Published in VFBV News

Update: 12 August 2013 - This update will assist VFBV delegates in having this discussion with local MPs and encouraging discussion amongst our broader volunteer network.

Sadly, Victoria is still lagging behind other states on presumptive legislation to provide a fairer and simpler path to compensation for volunteer and career firefighters who contract cancer.

The Victorian Government has indicated it is awaiting the results of new Monash University research, when even the researchers have indicated the wait is unnecessary (see below for what they had to say).

In the meantime, you may have seen a recent media report that Government estimates obtained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) application suggest an annual claims cost to CFA of $130 million if the legislation is passed.

VFBV finds that figure difficult to believe, given that evidence accepted by a Senate inquiry considering the federal legislation showed there has not been a rush of claims when overseas governments passed similar laws.

Whether you believe those estimated figures or not, fair protection for firefighters shouldn't be made impossibly hard just to save the Government money.

If the cost really is that high it is because the problem is real and the cost is being borne by sick firefighters and their families.  If that is the case, then it is not reasonable to leave them facing that cost if they contract cancer while protecting community. 

Progress in other states

Tasmania: The Tasmanian Labor Government has introduced draft legislation into Parliament, although the Bill is, in our opinion, quite flawed in that it requires arbitrary numbers of turnouts before a firefighter can qualify for coverage.  The Bill is set to come up in the Tasmanian Lower House in August and expected to pass with the support of Labor and the Greens – the Liberals have not yet stated their position.  The process may be more complicated in the Tasmanian Upper House, which has a significant number of independent MPs.  See the Tasmanian Government’s announcement here.

South Australia: Having initially refused to support a Bill introduced by the Greens on the basis that it was awaiting the results of new research by Monash University, the SA Labor Government has now introduced its own Bill.  The SA Government’s Bill excludes volunteers, with the SA Government saying it is awaiting additional scientific studies before considering them.  You can download the SA Government’s media release below.

Western Australia: The West Australian Liberal National Government has announced it will  introduce presumptive legislation to cover volunteer and career firefighters, based on the Federal Government legislation as is being sought by VFBV, and verbally advised WA volunteer representatives that it will apply from 1 July 2013.  See the WA Government’s announcement here.

Victoria lags behind

It is disappointing that the Victorian Government has not yet declared its support, even though draft legislation has been presented to our Upper House by the Greens, with the in-principle support of Labor.

The Victorian Government has indicated it is awaiting the result of new Monash University research, even though the Australian Senate has already accepted a considerable weight of overseas research, the Australian Parliament passed legislation in 2011 with the support of all of the major parties, and even the Monash University researchers say sufficient evidence already exists.

In a letter to the Greens, researchers Associate Professor Deborah Glass and Professor Malcolm Sim said; 

“…there is already good evidence from a very large number of previous human studies that work as a firefighter is associated with an increased risk of several types cancer…  …waiting for more research findings, especially in this situation where the results of many cancer studies in firefighters are already available, will lead to unacceptable delays, possibly extending into years. “

In the meantime, the Victorian draft legislation will return to the Upper House of Parliament on Wednesday 21 August 2013, with no guarantee it can proceed.  From a VFBV viewpoint the issue shouldn’t be delayed, no matter the outcome on 21 August.  If the Bill can be introduced in the Upper House then volunteers will be looking to the other political parties to support it – if the Bill can only be introduced in the Lower House, then it is up to the major parties to either introduce or support presumptive legislation there.

VFBV has worked to secure the support of all of the major parties for this important initiative, reflecting the all-party support the Federal legislation received in the Australian Parliament in 2011.

VFBV and the United Firefighters’ Union are running a joint campaign for presumptive cancer legislation to apply to all Victorian volunteer and career firefighters.  This issue is fundamental for all firefighters.

What you can do

We call on VFBV delegates across Victoria to contact their local MPs and ask for their active support for presumptive legislation to make the path to cancer compensation simpler and fairer for all Victorian firefighters.  We are asking all Victorian MPs to take up the issue – those who don’t support presumptive legislation should be able to tell you why they do not.

If an MP does not support presumptive legislation, VFBV delegates should ask for their feedback on the issue.  VFBV will inform our membership of the progress on this issue, including making a summary of feedback from MPs available on the VFBV website.

VFBV has prepared a detailed briefing that local delegates can hand to MPs when meeting with them.

VFBV is also working to inform the Premier, Minister and other key MPs, publicising the issue via the media, writing to all State MPs and keeping volunteers informed via our website, the VFBV newsletter, The Fireman and regular updates to VFBV State Councillors and District officials.

The next appearance in the Victorian Parliament

Volunteers can attend State Parliament on the afternoon of Wednesday, 21 August 2013, to hear the debate when the Greens’ proposed Bill returns to the Upper House during the afternoon.  VFBV is not organising an official event, but any presence of volunteers in the public gallery will emphasise the importance of the Bill.

Published in VFBV News
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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