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How CFA activates thousands of TRAINED, EXPERIENCED VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS to deal with multiple major incidents, anywhere at any time.  How MELBOURNE’S SUBURBS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE.  How VICTORIA NEEDS CFA’S SURGE CAPACITY hundreds of times a year.

Our colourful animated video explains how CFA’s volunteer surge capacity works.  Our computer-generated video shows a satellite view of hundreds of brigades as they respond.

Our animated video gives you a quick demonstration of CFA’s volunteer surge capacity.

Our computer-generated video shows modelling of official CFA data, put together by VFBV and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety to show how CFA’s great volunteer surge capacity can deal with multiple major incidents.

FACTS ON CFA VOLUNTEERS’ ESSENTIAL ROLE IN VICTORIA’S EMERGENCY SERVICES:

  • CFA Brigades protect 60% of suburban Melbourne, regional cities and all of country Victoria
  • Volunteers are more than 95% of Victoria’s firefighting force, CFA has almost 55,000 volunteers.
  • CFA Brigades in Melbourne’s outer suburbs contribute thousands of the volunteers that give CFA the surge capacity to mobilise large numbers of trained, experienced firefighters at short notice to deal with large and long running emergencies
  • CFA Brigades protect over 4 million Victorians and one million homes every day and night of the year
  • CFA Brigades respond to all manner of emergencies, including fire, flood, industrial/chemical incidents, medical and road accidents

An explanation of CFA Volunteer Surge Capacity

CFA volunteer surge capacity is the ability to field thousands of trained, experienced volunteer firefighters at short notice while at the same time maintaining normal day to day service delivery and protection of local communities. 

One of the fundamental benefits of the CFA volunteer based model is the depth of capacity and capability it provides to maintain response across Victoria to widespread, large scale, multiple and concurrent emergencies whilst maintaining local fire cover for the rest of Victoria.
  The blue dots on the map above show the location of CFA volunteer brigades across Victoria that provide a network of brigades all contributing to volunteer surge capacity.
  CFA volunteers attend local fires, day to day emergencies and major disasters anywhere in the state. 
  They are professionally trained and equipped for all fire risk situations - from houses, shops and factory fires to major hazards, bushfires and motor vehicle accidents.
  Your local CFA volunteer brigade is much more than just 3 or 4 firefighters on duty – it’s dozens of volunteer firefighters on call and ready whenever needed 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Every day of the year.
  This regular activation results in a well-motivated, exercised and prepared emergency force that maintains operational readiness across the whole year. This not only keeps communities safe but ensures the highest levels of firefighter safety due to frequent use of their skills.
  CFA’s huge volunteer numbers mean we have the ability to combat multiple fires at a time and keep supplying firefighters on the ground. Often for weeks, months or more as required.
  A huge portion of our CFA volunteer surge capacity comes from the ever-growing outer metropolitan Melbourne and provincial cities. So maintaining our volunteer numbers in these areas is vitally important for Victoria.
  These volunteers from outer metro along with CFA volunteers right across the state means we have thousands of trained, experienced volunteer fire-fighters in the field ready to be deployed every hour of the day and we can keep supplying these firefighters for weeks at a time wherever they are needed.
 

This enormous surge capacity is recognized by fire experts as one of the most fundamental benefits of the CFA volunteer workforce.

They are embedded in cities, suburbs, regions and even the smallest rural communities.

  The 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission said that the CFA volunteer surge capacity, together with the local knowledge and the ability of CFA volunteer fire brigades to mobilise a rapid response was a key strength during the 2009 Black Saturday Fires.
  This capacity is not just demonstrated during summer, but across the entire year. The 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire is just one example of a non-bushfire emergency that extended over 45 days and required thousands of well trained volunteers. And this volunteer surge capacity is essential for Victoria’s continuing ability to deal with large fires.
Published in HomePage Top 3

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre.

The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills.

What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by Maryborough Fire Brigade volunteers in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

There’s a camp in the Mallee, sessions at a surf life saving club, activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid.

The Fire Awareness Award judges said the project goes beyond the basics in building resilience, with a range of partner organisations and reaching great numbers; over 40 students participate each year, and several have become CFA volunteers.

Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the Emergency Services Journey program and students for doing so well, and particularly Samantha Rothman for her work in developing and championing the program.

Pictured are: VFBV’s Andrew Ford, Maryborough CFA Captain Darryl Wagstaff AFSM, teacher and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman, and Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton at the Fire Awareness Awards.

Published in HomePage Featured

VFBV’s Volunteer Leadership Program scholarships

Applications for 2017 have now closed, but volunteers considering applying for future courses are invited to download the information packs below.

The 2017 courses will be based in the Euroa (District 22) and Ararat (District 16) areas, starting in late March.  Successful participants will achieve the nationally recognised Certificate IV in Leadership & Management. The locations have been chosen based on an effort to rotate the courses across the State, and their location on major highways to make travel to and from those areas as easy as possible for members from neighbouring Districts.

The VFBV Volunteer Leadership Program has already produced over 250 graduates and many are in leadership positions with their agencies, volunteer representative organisations or local communities.  Graduates will achieve a nationally recognised Cert IV in Leadership & Management (BSB42015).

You can download the 2017 application pack for CFA volunteers here.  Scholarships are also open to volunteers from Ambulance Victoria, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, Life Saving Victoria, VICSES and St John.  You can download a 2017 multi-agency application pack here.

The VFBV Leadership Scholarship course has been designed for volunteers, with a mix of lectures and interactive activities designed to suit the needs of adult students, as well as ample support using distance learning methods.  The course involves 12 units, eight face to face days (six Saturdays and two Sundays) throughout the year, with course work and assignments spread throughout the year.

The course includes units on;

  • leadership
  • decision making
  • planning
  • safety and risk management
  • team effectiveness
  • making presentations
  • managing projects, and
  • engaging the community.

Any questions or queries can be directed to any of VFBV’s Support Officers.  You can download the 2017 flyer here and a copy was posted to all Brigades as part of VFBV’s regular mail-out.

This is an exciting program and is well respected in the sector.  Applications always exceed places available, so please encourage your members and keep in mind that your Brigade Captain’s endorsement is very powerful when assessing potential students.

Published in HomePage Featured
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:10

2 Minute Briefing - Training

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

NEW DEPUTY CHIEF OFFICER - TRAINING

The CFA Training department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that Training has now been transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and is now led by a Deputy Chief Officer - Training.

VFBV welcomes Acting DCO Gregg Paterson AFSM to the new position. Gregg brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him.

PUMPING PIT RECOMMISSIONING    

VFBV has been strongly advocating for CFA to commit to a remediation and recommissioning program for pumping pits, whose use was temporarily suspended back in February 2015. There are approximately 91 pumping pits in use across the state. Of vital importance is the need for pumping pits to be safe, and for there to be an efficient and timely program to clean, monitor water quality and ultimately recommission them for use.

For many brigades, pumping pits form the only safe, controlled and viable option for brigades to train in drafting and other related pump operations and skills maintenance.

CFA have now issued a Work Instruction on the Management of Pumping Pits, and have implemented an approved recommissioning process. CFA have advised that the ultimate decision to recommission and fund the cost of these works rests with the Region. Water testing costs between $300/$400, with the cost of cleaning and refilling to be approximately $1,000.

Delegates have raised concern that due to Regional budget limitations, these costs will be pushed back to Brigades. CFA’s advice to these concerns is that Brigades should go through the Chain of Command and ultimately to Assistant Chief Officers who hold oversight of the Regions.

AVAILABILITY OF CHAINSAW TRAINING

The Committee continues to advocate for much greater access and support for members to attain chainsaw qualification and training. Despite two Mobile Chainsaw Training trailers developed through the Mobile Prop Project back in 2015 to add additional capability for members to access chainsaw training, a UFU grievance over the training package, equipment and trailer use and design has resulted in a yearlong ban on paid instructors using these trailers to deliver any chainsaw training, resulting in the widespread cancellation of CFA planned courses for volunteers. 

CFA advises that the IR issues are now close to being resolved, and has confirmed that there are no IR restrictions that relate to volunteer trainer and assessors accessing, towing and using the trailers.

Whilst disappointed that brigades are currently unable to access paid support and delivery of chainsaw courses through CFA’s training pool, the Committee has requested that CFA increase the number of endorsed volunteer trainer and assessors to deliver this training, so that brigades can access this vital training for the upcoming fire season. CFA has agreed to streamline and prioritize volunteer access to the new trailers, equipment and training package, as well as investigate an EOI process for subject matter experts to be identified and endorsed for volunteer training and delivery.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY MOBILE PROPS

Despite significant work and progress on the design of an electrical safety mobile trailer prop back in 2014/15 CFA funding for the prop lapsed and is no longer available, leaving the project completely un-funded.   VFBV is advocating for these mobile props to be fully funded and reprioritized. Electrical Safety and specifically skills maintenance for Low Voltage Fuse Removal has been identified as a state-wide gap for quite some time, and the Committee believes the electrical safety mobile props would significantly improve capability and member access to this vital training and knowledge.

FIRST AID TRAINING

Early results from CFA’s new First Aid Training arrangements with St John appears to be positive, with great acceptance of the out-of-session course work that cuts down the course duration and allows students to do some of the course work at home and in their own time. Adjustments for postal delays is now being factored into future courses.

Published in Training Committee
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:07

2 Minute Briefing - Communications & Technology

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

DIGITAL SCANNER/LISTENING SETS TIER 3 STILL OPEN

The Digital Scanner subsidisation program advocated by VFBV and run in partnership with CFA has been an overwhelming success, since it began in October 2015. So far, 10,478 digital scanners have been ordered and shipped to Brigades and Groups across the state.  The subsidy budget, and the savings to members, represents over $3 million dollars.

More than 970 Brigades and 80 Groups have placed and received their Tier 1 & 2 orders, and Tier 3 is still under way. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade was entitled to a minimum of eight units at the subsidised price.  On average, Brigades ordered 3.5 units under Tier 1, and Groups took up one of their guaranteed minimum of two units.  Under Tiers 1 and 2 members paid $150 for a scanner, with the subsidy budget paying the other $296.75

Scanners are still available: CFA is still accepting Tier 3 orders, from Brigades, Groups and individual members. Tier 3 units are available at cost price, which was significantly reduced due to the bulk orders placed during the subsidisation program.  Members can order units for $446.75 plus postage and handling, while stocks last.  Order forms are still available from the VFBV website.

EAS PAGER OBSERVATION REPORTS MONITORING

Each quarter, the committee receives detailed reporting on the number of EAS Page observation reports submitted, including the type of issues reported, the length of time to investigate, and the results of each investigation. Encouragingly, since implementing this reporting cycle, the committee has observed a significant reduction in the time taken to resolve issues and the quality of reporting. Over the year, the 3 most common reported faults have been; not receiving messages (~38%), physical damage to the pager (~18%), and lost or stolen pagers (~10%).

Members are reminded of the importance of lodging EAS fault reports when they experience problems with their pagers. This information is critically important in identifying network performance issues as well as monitoring the health and status of the current pagers. The committee has requested that CFA investigate and prioritize the introduction of Electronic Observation Reports in addition to the current reporting option, which would provide more timely feedback to the member raising the concern. CFA has agreed to investigate, scope and report back.

PROPOSED REGIONAL RADIO DISPATCH SERVICE EXPANSION TO OUTER METRO DISTRICTS

For many years now VFBV and the Committee have been advocating for the Regional Mobile Radio Network to be expanded to cover the outer metropolitan districts. This network provides high quality digital P25 network capabilities and much improved radio audio quality. Under the Regional Radio Dispatch Service project announced back in 2013, the CFA network has been upgraded to the new digital network in all CFA districts excluding Districts 7, 8, 13 and 14 and has been a resounding success.

Unfortunately, these four Districts were not funded through RRDS and are still operating on the analogue dispatch network. Given these are amongst the busiest Districts in the state, the inability to access the digital dispatch network has far reaching consequences, one of them being these Districts will have no means to access improved functionality, such as the short status button functionality when it finally rolls out. Given the impact short status messaging will have on reducing radio congestion, this would provide a significant improvement to the busy outer metropolitan dispatch systems. In principle approval for expansion has now been announced, and CFA is now working with EMV, VicPol and SES in scoping a new project to potentially deliver on this commitment. VFBV welcomes this long awaited progress and will continue our advocacy to ensure the project receives adequate funding and government priority.   

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 17:03

2 Minute Briefing - Volunteerism

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 20/11/2016)

CFA HQ DIRECTORATE RESTRUCTURE – VOLUNTEERS & STRATEGY

The CFA Volunteerism department has again been restructured, with the Committee informed that the old Learning & Volunteerism directorate has been split, with training now being transferred to the F&EM (Fire & Emergency Management) directorate, and Volunteerism now merging with Strategy to form the new directorate of Volunteers & Strategy.

The Brigade Support Team has now been amalgamated with the Volunteerism team, with this team looking to focus on more field based staff connecting with brigades at the local level.  They will explore recruitment and re-engagement, brigade sustainability, decline and growth patterns across the state, hub and cooperative models, and community connectedness. 

The overall vision of the Volunteers and Strategy Team is to facilitate the growth of volunteerism and strengthen brigade sustainability. VFBV welcomes Executive Director John Haynes to the new position. John brings energy and enthusiasm to the role and the Committee looks forward to working with him. John’s vision is to look at more outcome based measurements, such as what we measure before, during and after fires – not just measuring performance based on time out the door.

CFA ANNUAL PLAN 2016-17 RELEASED

CFA has released its Annual Plan for 2016-17 that outlines its priorities for this period. This year’s plan outlines the five priority plan themes for CFA during the 2016/17 year. The five themes are; Capability; Culture; Stakeholder Engagement; Strategy, Plan and Direction; and Systems and Processes.
 You can download a copy at; http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/news/cfa-plan-a-must-read-for-all.html

VOLUNTEER TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT & ARRANGEMENTS

Following reports of variances between CFA Regions and Districts in how volunteer travel reimbursements are paid and authorised, the committee has requested CFA develop a State-wide Business Rule that will standardise and clarify arrangements. VFBV’s long held policy is that no volunteer should be out of pocket due to their volunteering. The Committee continues to advocate for improved access to CFA vehicles – including corporate pool vehicles when required to travel for training or other CFA related activities that would otherwise create an impost or cost upon volunteers. Should an appropriate vehicle not be available, then volunteers should have access to travel reimbursement, which is currently set at $0.72 per km. CFA has agreed to progress a policy review.

AWARD WINNING PROGRAM FOR KIDS

A VFBV-supported project for secondary students has won the Education Award at this year’s Fire Awareness Awards, thanks to local CFA volunteers and the Maryborough Education Centre. The Emergency Services Journey takes Year 9 students to their local brigade, Police and ambulance station to see how each service operates and learn practical skills. What began as a Brigades in Schools program run by volunteers from the Maryborough Fire Brigade in 2004, has been developed into an innovative course at the Maryborough Education Centre by teacher, VFBV Board member and CFA volunteer Samantha Rothman.

The course also includes a camp in the Mallee and sessions at a surf life saving club, and the students achieve certificates in Life Saving skills and First Aid. The program includes team and confidence building, with activities like open water swimming and fire brigade competition events. The Emergency Services Journey program is funded by VFBV and the Maryborough Education Centre Principal David Sutton says the school is proud of the students for doing so well, and Samantha Rothman for her work in developing the program. Well done David, Samantha and the Maryborough Brigade!

Published in Volunteerism Committee
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:59

2 Minute Briefing - Equipment & Infrastructure

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 19/11/2016)

TANKER REAR DECK POD PROTOTYPE BECOMES A REALITY

For a number of years now, VFBV has been advocating for CFA to explore rear deck pods to trial as a possible replacement for rear deck ROPS, similar to those used in the mining industry. Ever since CFA’s decision to no longer manufacture rear deck ROPS and move exclusively to twin cab cab-chassis’, and the loss of DAH’s (Deck access hatches) volunteers have been raising concerns about the difficulty in accessing the rear deck area during jobs requiring crews to frequently move between the cab and the rear deck. The committee has been advocating for CFA to investigate the European body builders, where it has become common practice to purchase a single cab chassis and then build a crew area connected to the cabin as part of the body. This has a number of advantages including; that in a burn over situation all crew on the deck can quickly and safely return to the cabin; a reduction in crew fatigue across long fire-ground shifts; and greater safety when travelling to and from the fire ground and protection from smoke and embers.


The Committee was provided a tour and inspection of a Bell Engineering Heavy Tanker Pod Prototype, by Managing Director Robert Bell. The prototype is a ‘pod’ type construction which can be modified to slip onto any cab chassis. The ROP or rear cabin is fully self contained, very ‘roomy’ and has a large window with viewing access to the cabin and full size door access to the rear deck. A front mounted monitor, crew protection sprays, digital water level indicators on the sides as well as the back, ample storage lockers and an optional hydraulic BA lifter for easy operation are some of the great features. The Committee has requested that Bell Engineering consider loaning the prototype to CFA early next year so that a roadshow can be planned for members to view and inspect the prototype. Mr Bell has generously agreed, and VFBV extends its gratitude and appreciation to Mr Bell and the Bell Engineering Team, and congratulates them on their continued innovation, collaboration and support of Victorian fire services.

BURNOVER VEHICLE ENTRAPMENT RESEARCH - VIDEO

Following a presentation to the Committee earlier in the year from CFA’s Research & Development team, the Committee requested that CFA use this research to create a new burn-over training video that uses historical vision and vision from field testing filmed in February this year. The research team closely duplicated conditions similar to those experienced during the tragic Linton Fires in 1998 to test the response of CFA’s crew protection systems.


Three vehicles were tested, a tanker with ROP and crew protection, an Ultra-light with Gel coating and an Ultra light with foam coating. All vehicles were relatively unscathed with the temperature in the cabin of the tanker sitting at around 40 degrees whilst the outside temperature rose well above 600 degrees. The Committee has provided feedback on the new video, and has requested that a fact sheet be attached and be released along with SOP 9.32 ‘Entrapment Procedure’ for Brigades to use for their pre-summer training. CFA has released an online version on their facebook page.

This type of research is critical to ensuring firefighter safety and educating members on how the crew protection safety systems work, build confidence in those systems and the importance of situational awareness & entrapment procedures.

ROP CUSHION PROTOTYPE

Arcadia Brigade members briefed the committee on a prototype cushion for use in vehicles with rear deck roll over protection. As many would have experienced, the solid fibreglass ROP seat can be hard on your back and very slippery when cornering. The cushions have multiple functions in regards to firefighter safety, back injury reduction and firefighter comfort on long duration shifts amongst them. The Committee has requested they be field tested by 3 brigades in district 22 and will also be offered for testing by brigades in other Districts over the summer whilst analysis is completed.

The Committee had previously authorised a VESEP grant to support the trial, and VFBV thanks the Arcadia Fire Brigade for this pro-active initiative. A proban, a nomex and a marine canvas version are being field and burn tested over the summer.

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:53

2 Minute Briefing - Community Safety

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 26/11/2016)

PLANNED BURNING AND BUILDING BRIGADE CAPABILITIES

For many years now VFBV has been advocating for a more holistic approach to planned burning, and for CFA to promote the training advantages of participating in planned burns.

The committee has been very pleased to observe that recent planned burns have developed into exercises, not just in fire behaviour and fuel load interactions but also extend to learnings in weather behaviour, impact on flora and fauna, bush heritage and Indigenous fire management practices.

The camps are very practical ‘hands on’ for all involved, each participant is specifically tasked with both coaching and mentoring roles, allowing involvement by volunteers across all aspects of the planned burning. Recent burn camps also saw attendances from Traditional Owners, Trust for Nature (landowners) bird scientists, along with DWELP, plantation owners and CFA paid staff.

The attendees worked well together and contributed experience and expertise, building valuable relationships and creating an atmosphere of co-operation in complex burn scenarios. These camps offer a great opportunity for volunteers to train in realistic settings and gain extensive fire firefighting experience.

The committee has requested CFA produce a brochure which clearly explains and illustrates upcoming Burn Camps to Brigades.

CFA-SES COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND HAZARD AWARENESS FORUM

The joint CFA-SES community engagement forum was held at The Mantra in Lorne on 6th & 7th August, 2016.

The Forum is Victoria’s leading community safety conference for emergency service personnel and an opportunity for members to hear from both front line community safety educators but also leading community engagement specialists.

As well as the usual guest speakers, sessions and presentations, there were also outdoor displays by Coast Guard, CFA and SES, which were a resounding success. This year there were 481 attendees, 70% of those were CFA, 20% SES, this is a dramatic rise from 140 at the first forum in 2011. Volunteers from the North East and South East were very well represented with 65% of attendees coming from these two regions. The forum is growing in popularity and size.

The Committee will be reviewing the feedback provided by this year’s attendee’s and supports the continuation of this important forum. VFBV would like to recognize and congratulate the hard working members of the Volunteer Reference Group whose tireless energy and work helped to make this year’s event another resounding success.

THE FIRE SAFETY PLEDGE

Building on the success of last year’s campaign, CFA launched The Fire Safety Pledge to run between 3 November and 22 December.

Brigades are offered the chance to win one of three $1,000 cash prizes by encouraging members of their community to take the online “Fire Safety Pledge” at www.thefiresafetypledge.com.au

When members of the public make their pledge, they are asked to enter a local CFA brigade they wish to support. At the end of the competition, the brigade with the most number of pledges across the three different categories, will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

The categories are

1. Overall winner (brigade with the most votes)

2. Per-Capita – CFA brigade with the most votes relative to their population, and

3. Tiny Town – for brigades serving a population of less than 100 people.

As at 23 November (just three weeks into the initiative) 6,793 people have taken the pledge.

Any member of the public that takes the pledge will go into a draw to win one of four Samsung Galaxy Tablets or one of four $100 Bunning Gift Vouchers.

The friendly competition within Districts has begun with steep competition amongst seven of the top ten positions. Good Luck…..

BUSHFIRE HOTLINE NUMBER CHANGED

Delegates reported to CFA they have received complaints and concerns from the community surrounding the change of the VicEmergency Hotline number from 1800 240 667 to 1800 226 226. The committee has requested that both numbers continue to work until people get used to the change. CFA advice is both numbers will continue for some time.

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:49

2 Minute Briefing - Operations

Issue 16: December 2016

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting. (Meeting held 27/11/2016). Unfortunately, delegates were advised a few days before the meeting that the Chief Officer was not available to meet, so the Committee decided instead of cancelling the meeting, they would simply meet without CFA.

ROLE OF GROUP

Having waited since 2012 for the most recent CFA review to strengthen the role of group, the Committee notes with disappointment the lack of progress or CFA leadership in the intervening time. Having lost confidence with CFA’s lack of response or support to this review, the Committee has endorsed a proposal for a volunteer led review of the Role of Group, with the intent to meet and gather feedback from all Groups across the State in order to arrive at a formal position that volunteers can then lead and advocate for across the Sector. This work will commence after the FDP and we will be seeking representatives from all Districts to help lead and coordinate a ground up discussion and review during 2017, with a view of driving this important reform. We will be using all the feedback received from CFA’s previous review as well as discussing the countless ideas and suggestions that arose from discussion during the last review but may have been rejected by CFA at the time for one reason or another.

In the previous review, VFBV advocated for;

  • Greater support and recognition from CFA to Groups and the Group structures in local command and control
  • Greater flexibility in how Groups can structure themselves to accommodate and respect local and regional differences and flexibility to match operating models to local risks. A ‘one size fits all’ model is not supported.
  • Strengthening the chain of command to empower and enhance the capability and capacity for local command and control being exercised by CFA members at the local level ensuring that local participation continues as incidents grow in size and complexity
  • Systems of work that recognize and enhance how Brigades, Groups, OO’s and RDO’s interact and support each other in Operational Readiness & Response, Training & Mentoring and Community Education
  • Strengthening the role of Groups in assisting Brigades building local capability for Incident Management and volunteer upskilling and mentoring for Level 2 and 3 incident management roles
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role of Group Comms including role, systems and processes in supporting local incidents and deployments and recognition in CAD processes and procedures of this vital role
  • Greater support and recognition of the important role Groups play in readiness, pre-incident planning & coordination, strike team resourcing & deployment, maintaining situational awareness and training delivery

All members will be provided an opportunity to share their ideas and thoughts, and VFBV will provide leadership, logistical and administrative support to allow local groups and districts to participate in structured discussions and share the information coming from neighbouring groups and districts across the State. If you would like to be involved in the early stages of the project, please contact VFBV at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (03) 9886 1141 and we will record your details.

40km SPEED LIMITS

VFBV continues to support and advocate for a 40km speed limit for vehicles passing a stationary emergency service vehicle displaying their red and blue flashing lights.

VFBV’s long stated position has been that firefighters working alongside roads and highways when attending to incidents, are put at a significant health & safety risk by passing motorists, and 40km speed limits similar to those for road side workers should be pursued, along with strong public education campaigns to educate motorists of the dangers. The Committee continues to advocate for the establishment of new road rules that will protect all emergency service personnel when working on the side of roads and highways.

 

Published in Operations Committee
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
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

SEEKING PUBLIC DONATIONS - DONATE VIA MYCAUSE cheque or bank deposit

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria has launched a crowdfunding campaign to give the public the chance to support the work we are doing to protect, advocate and represent CFA volunteers, including our Supreme Court action.

The campaign ‘Supporting and Valuing our CFA Volunteers’ is now live on Australian crowdfunding platform, mycause at www.mycause.com.au/cfa

  

To donate by cheque:

Cheques should be made out to:

VFBV – Valuing Volunteers Fund

And posted to:

VFBV

PO Box 453

Mt Waverley Vic. 3151

You can also donate via Direct Deposit to this account:

Account Name: Valuing Volunteers Fund
BSB: 633000 (Bendigo Bank)
Account Number: 157 728 221

As you know, VFBV is fighting to maintain CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated fire and emergency service with employees fully integrated with volunteers to provide seamless public safety services to Victorians. This is what CFA is under our CFA Act.

The community volunteer nature of CFA is under attack from the industrial deal done by the Andrews Victorian Government and Peter Marshall of the United Firefighters Union. The deal negatively impacts on CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, its operations and support for volunteers including consultation.

It is an attempt to change the nature of CFA by using an anomaly in the Commonwealth Workplace Relations Act which enables an EBA to override state legislation once the EBA is registered by the Commonwealth Fair Work Commission.

The Supreme Court trial on the lawfulness of the new CFA Board adopting the proposed CFA/UFU Enterprise Bargaining Agreement will begin on 22 September 2016 and should run for up to five days.

The CFA/United Firefighters Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, approved by the new government-appointed CFA Board, would see:

• The powers of the Chief Officer overridden;
• The union given power of veto on issues affecting volunteer based and fully integrated organisation, operations and support;
• Restrictions in the EBA on effective volunteer consultation rights under the CFA Volunteer Charter;
• Other clauses that are contrary to the CFA Act, and
• Volunteers treated as second class just because they are not paid.

Only Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria is left to defend CFA from the deal and its detrimental effect for CFA services to the Victorian public.

The Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett shared our volunteer concerns, refused to support the deal and resigned in June. The CFA Board that was opposing the deal was sacked by the Andrews Government. The CEO, Lucinda Nolan and Chief Officer, Joe Buffone subsequently resigned in protest over the deal. The current CFA Board and administration are failing to stand up for CFA volunteers and kow-towing to unlawful UFU demands.

The campaign, particularly through the courts, costs money. Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria does not intend to use government grant funds or individual brigade affiliation fees to pay for the campaign, so we are asking the community that we serve to support us. This funding will be used to pay for Supreme Court and other action to preserve and protect the powers of the CFA Act.

VFBV and volunteers have made it very clear that we are not against our paid colleagues and have no interest in interfering in their legitimate pay and conditions.

Our vision is for CFA to be a modern and contemporary emergency service where volunteers and paid staff work side by side as equals and respect one another.

Encouraging, maintaining and strengthening the capacity of volunteers is vitally important for Victoria, and we are calling on those who value the capacity, determination and service of the volunteers to please support our campaign in the Supreme Court on September 22 by donating to our campaign on mycause.

Members of the public can learn more and make a donation online here.

See the media release here.

Published in HomePage Featured

MEDIA RELEASE - Friday, 12 August 2016

STATEMENT BY VFBV CEO ANDREW FORD ON THE ACTIONS OF THE CFA BOARD TO ADOPT THE UFU’S EBA ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, 12 AUGUST 2016

Today is a day of infamy that will burn into the memory of every CFA volunteer.

It is the day that that a CFA Board decision, and those Board members who voted for it, betrayed volunteers and ignored their responsibility and obligations to the public of Victoria under the CFA Act and Victoria’s most successful emergency management arrangements.

This evening the CFA Board, made up of a majority Andrews Government-UFU ‘yes’ people accepted the UFU’s Enterprise Bargaining Agreement which will see the powers of the Chief Officer overridden, union interference with volunteer organisation, operations and support, and see volunteers treated as second class just because they are not paid.

The EBA fundamentally alters the nature of CFA organisation, operations and support for volunteers as required by the CFA Act and hands control of key activities within the organisation to the Fitzroy based UFU as part of the grab for power by union secretary Peter Marshall.

The UFU have made no secret of their objective to replace urban volunteers with paid staff, members of the UFU – just look at their various inquiry submissions including the Black Saturday Bushfire Royal Commission for confirmation. They would relegate remaining volunteers to second class status.

Every inquiry and commission has dismissed these submissions and recognised the fundamental importance of the current CFA volunteer arrangements and the need to continually grow our volunteer capacity to keep pace with urbanisation and the growth of bushfire risk because of climate change.

But consideration of these issues was ignored by the majority of the current CFA Board and the Premier and Minister who pushed them to accept the infamous Andrews-Marshall industrial deal.

The fact that the majority succumbed to political lies, manoeuvring and pressure reflects badly on them in the manner they have exercised their duty as CFA Board members.

We say the Board members who supported this deal have ignored their statutory and fiduciary obligations under the CFA Act and Commonwealth corporate law. They must be held accountable for this failure.

After the sacking of the previous CFA Board for acting in a lawful and responsible way, a way that did not suit Premier Andrews and his dirty deal with Peter Marshall, together with the forced resignation of Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett who acted with enormous integrity in support of CFA and its vital role, outstanding CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan and our Chief Officer Joe Buffone who concluded that the UFU agreement is destructive of CFA efficiency and effectiveness, who is left to defend the real CFA?

After recent sackings and resignations there is only the state’s 60,000 volunteers through their association – VFBV – to stand up for the real CFA and effective public safety services for Victorians.

We have instructed our legal team to take further action immediately to defend the CFA as an effective volunteer based fully integrated fire and emergency service.

Our legal action is unprecedented for volunteers, or in the emergency services – but the consultation process with the CFA has been a sham and our careful analysis ignored.

We now have no other choice if the real CFA is to be defended.

But our campaign to defend CFA will not end there.

Volunteers across the state are mobilising in their local communities and regions. They will make sure Victoria is ready for the summer fire season and at the same time develop local campaigns to mobilise their communities in support of our campaign to defend the real CFA.

Like in countless battles against fires which threaten life and property, CFA volunteers will not give up – it’s just not in our DNA

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 03 August 2016 00:00

2 August 2016 - Update on the CFA/UFU EBA

Included in this update:

  • VFBV/CFA Consultation on Operational Staff EBA
  • Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness
  • The Premier’s Troubling Comments
  • Information we have requested from CFA
  • VFBV’S Next Steps
  • Actions You Can Take at the Local Level
  • A Summary of the Key Matters VFBV Raised with the Parliamentary Committee
  • See below to download a copy of this update

VFBV – CFA Consultation on Operational Staff EBA

VFBV concluded its formal court ordered consultation period with CFA on 20 July 2016. Subsequently, we requested to extend the consultations once the new CFA Board was in place in order to bring new CFA Board members up to speed with our concerns and suggestions.

Whilst CFA did not agree to further formal consultations we were invited to make a presentation to the full CFA Board on Monday 1 August. The UFU were also invited to make a presentation to the Board at an earlier time the same day.

I am pleased to report that this meeting was constructive and I am hopeful that progress on our issues can be made – we’ll wait and see.

In the lead up to this meeting we wrote to CFA on Friday 29th July with further questions on the effect of the proposed CFA-UFU Operational Staff EBA, arising from our consultations so far and the feedback we are receiving from members. We also sent CFA an updated comprehensive assessment of the proposed EBA, clause by clause, with comments on issues and the actions that we believe are required.

We expressed the strong view that the completion of a genuine and meaningful consultation process under the Supreme Court undertakings, as well as the CFA Volunteer Charter, is dependent on the provision of all the information pertinent to the matter. We also expressed concern as to the lack of response and clarification from CFA, relating to the issues we have raised so far.

Parliamentary Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness

On Tuesday, 2 August, VFBV made a presentation and submission to the ‘Inquiry into Fire Season Preparedness’ by the Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Council Environment and Planning Standing Committee. The UFU was also scheduled to make a presentation but Peter Marshall advised he was not able to attend due to illness. The effects of the proposed EBA on the preparedness and operations for the forthcoming fire season have already been raised as an issue in the Inquiry. Attached to this News Note is a summary of the evidence Andrew Ford and Adam Barnett presented to the Committee.

The Premier’s Troubling Comments

Over the past couple of weeks Premier Daniel Andrews has told the media that the proposed EBA will not affect volunteers. He has accused those who say it will affect volunteers and public safety to be liars, spreading grubby mischief and following a political agenda. For example, on regional ABC radio he said:

“One would hope that the misinformation, the lies the pretty grubby mischief that’s been going on in recent months will come to an end.  Again we’ll continue to be out there with the truth, the actual facts of these matters.” 

In the past week he has even implied that if the dispute went on, lives may be lost because CFA members were not focussed on the job if the industrial dispute continued and was not resolved:

“… the price is me having to sit in this studio and say to you that lives were lost, property was lost, because the CFA was not focused on keeping Victorians safe, I’m not prepared to do that.”

These comments are an insult to all CFA members, volunteers and paid. For all of us, our public service to the people of Victoria, our commitment to public safety comes first and we will never be distracted from that. The very reason we are taking the stand we have on the EBA is because of a profound commitment to a volunteer based, fully integrated CFA as the best way to provide public safety for Victorians.

Information we have requested from CFA

VFBV has requested further information from CFA in regard to the EBA arising from our consultations so far and feedback from members. The matters raised included:

  • Whether the catchall clause 7A is the only proposed protection for volunteers
  • How the proposed CFA Greater Alarm Response System (GARS) would work
  • The effects on volunteers of clause 43.2.7; “seven professional firefighters to fireground incidents are dispatched before commencement of safe firefighting operations…”
  • The impacts of restricting BASO and Volunteer Support program roles to paid firefighters
  • How CFA will ensure VFBV and volunteers are genuinely consulted on issues handled by the EBA’s dispute resolution processes
  • The content of the proposed Infrastructure Agreement between CFA and UFU, to be placed on file at the same time as the EBA is lodged with FWA, and how VFBV and volunteer members of those Brigades will have genuine opportunity to have input before any decision is made
  • The listing of four additional locations for new integrated brigades - a direct contradiction of the Premier’s and Minster’s assurances that the proposed EBA will not affect volunteer brigades
  • How the Emergency Management Commissioner will ensure genuine consultation, ensure the CFA Act is not overridden, take any necessary action in the Fair Work Commission, and protect the roles of volunteers in accordance with the CFA Volunteer Charter?
  • When VFBV will receive an updated proposed EBA, showing amendments that are proposed to accommodate the volunteers’ concerns
  • Whether there is a proposed interpretation document that will guide the application of clauses in the EBA, and when it will be provided to VFBV for discussion and consultation

In our view, the responses to these matters are fundamental to “genuine and meaningful” consultation with volunteers so that we may help shape the final decisions that affect us and CFA as a volunteer based fire and emergency service.

VFBV’s Next Steps

VFBV is continuing to work to ensure the now-complete CFA Board fully understands volunteers’ concerns, the ramifications of approving the EBA and ways in which those concerns can be resolved.  It is important to repeat that none of our concerns are about the pay and conditions of paid firefighters.

We are working with Federal Government to ensure its intended legislation to change the Fair Work Act is effective in protecting volunteers from the effects of enterprise bargaining agreements.

VFBV will keep raising the issues with Members of Parliament, business and community leaders and the general public.

We are actively advocating through public forums, events and the media, and it is important that volunteers across the state continue local activities to support our push for a fair outcome.

Andrew Ford

CEO

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

Volunteers should still be:

  • Emailing and talking to local Members of Parliament at every opportunity
  • Seeking meetings with MPs to tell them about volunteers’ concerns
  • Raising the issue with local media and the community
  • Keeping your signs, leaflets and other campaign materials ready, we may need to hit the streets at short notice
  • And at all times, maintaining your normal professional standards of behaviour and emergency response to your community

Stay in touch with the issue via your State Councillors, FireWise, www.vfbv.com.au and VFBV updates to volunteers.

                                                          *               *               *

SUMMARY OF KEY MATTERS RAISED BY ANDREW FORD AND ADAM BARNETT TO THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING STANDING COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO FIRE SEASON PREPAREDNESS – 2 AUGUST 2016

Noted significant and compounding effect on fire seasons into the future

Stressed the vital importance of CFA volunteers to fire season preparedness, particularly:

  • Volunteer surge capacity
  • Interrelationship between fire service delivery in outer metropolitan Melbourne and Victoria’s fire season preparedness
  • The importance of CFA’s integrated model for managing this interrelationship
  • Proposed EBA’s impact on powers of the Chief Officer, the volunteer based and integrated nature of CFA and direct impact on Victoria’s fire season preparedness and operations
  • Long term and potentially disastrous impacts of the proposed EBA requiring a cure

Urged Committee to rapidly do all they can to transparently investigate the EBA problems we have raised, ensure appropriate awareness of the problems and seek out necessary remedies to them.

The issue is not volunteers versus paid staff but rather the issue of inappropriate union control and influence in CFA and an EBA that effectively dismantles the current statutory nature and operations of CFA and erodes the CFA’s capacity to manage its operations.

CFA’s single chain of command is vital for effective response – CFA is founded on the principle of roles being performed based on the best person for the job (training, experience, proficiency, availability) – not based on pay status. Volunteers are trained, experienced and endorsed to perform CFA’s range of roles from firefighter to incident controller and incident management roles at the highest level in the state.

A significant proportion of response and surge capacity to deal with fires and major incidents is from outer metro volunteers. An erosion of the numbers and capacity of outer metro volunteers will cut Victoria’s response and surge capacity to deal with major fires and incidents and more community loss will occur.

The network of 1200 volunteer brigades across Victoria is the first line of community planning, preparedness and resilience and the basis of community education capacity all year round including the lead-up to every fire season.

Often 40% and sometimes more than half of the resources used to fight major fires and respond to major incidents are provided by volunteers from outer metro Melbourne. Sustaining and growing volunteer capacity in outer metro Melbourne and supplementing it based on genuine need, and based on the CFA integrated model, is essential to a state-wide response and surge capacity. The operation of fully integrated brigades with their core of paid staff working with volunteers to meet local service delivery requirements is an important part of the CFA’s model of operation. Full integration of staff and volunteers is recognised in the CFA Act.

The CFA Act also requires that CFA policy and organisational arrangements (for example, policies, procedures, work force design, volunteer brigade support arrangements and training) encourage, maintain and strengthen the capacity of volunteers. Further, the CFA Act also requires consultation with volunteers on all matters that may affect them prior to decisions being made – this is a vital mechanism for engaging and rendering a sense of co-operative involvement to volunteers in determining CFA’s future as it affects volunteers. This is an important part of sustaining and building CFA’s volunteer workforce – currently about 97% of the total CFA workforce – to meet current and future challenges, be it urban growth or the fire and flood effects of climate change.

The matters raised with the Committee regarding the proposed EBA:

  • Erodes the role of volunteers;
  • Restricts support to volunteers;
  • Blocks proper consultation on matters which may affect volunteers;
  • Dismantles the CFA integrated model; and,
  • Restricts and overrides CFA (including Chief Officer) decision making.

These factors inherent in the current version of the proposed EBA will lead to reductions in volunteer capacity. If volunteers are not respected and utilised in a meaningful way there is a high risk of disengagement and loss of members – ‘use them or lose them’; respect them or lose them.

Implementation of the proposed EBA creates a significant and growing cost burden which will inevitably lead to the monopolising of resources to one small aspect of CFA business primarily in urban Melbourne rather than allowing CFA to determine priorities based on service need and risk. Consequently, regional Victoria and other operational priorities will see a progressive draining of available resources.

Once volunteers are gone and the traditions of service lost it will be very difficult to rebuild.

Pointed to various comments and assurances from Government regarding the EBA including:

  • There is no impact on volunteers;
  • Volunteer concerns have been fixed;
  • The EBA only affects a handful (34) of CFA brigades;
  • Volunteers are protected from the affects of the EBA;
  • Support to volunteers is not impacted by the EBA;
  • There is no veto power for the UFU in the EBA

Pointed out how these comments and assurances were not true!

Finally, appealed to the Committee to do everything in its power to ensure urgent, expert and transparent analysis of:

  • The concerns raised by the immediate previous CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer;
  • Advice received from senior legal experts, including a numbers of QCs;
  • The impact on CFA volunteer capacity and volunteer workload;
  • The full additional costs and funding required to ensure limited funds are directed to best community safety outcomes as determined by the CFA, not an industrial agreement; and,

The wildly varying cost estimates of the EBA, noting CFA cost estimates suggesting an additional $1.2 billion required over three to four years, where some Treasury estimates place the cost at around $160m – There is a need to generate figures of which we can all be confident.

 

Published in VFBV News

New Closing Date 18 December

The Independent Equity and Diversity Review into CFA and MFB has been extended. Members now have the opportunity to take part in this review until 18 December 2016, and VFBV encourages all members to consider contributing to the review. Links to the electronic survey is below.

Over the past five months, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) have been conducting surveys, focus groups and interviews that look at our workplace culture and the experience of discrimination (including bullying) and sexual harassment among CFA and MFB members.

The review team has seen high levels of engagement and have extended their site visits and survey deadline to ensure they speak to as many members as possible about their experiences.

VFBV has been working closely with and actively assisting VEOHRC in their work, by supporting our members to participate and also by facilitating VEOHRC’s attendance at a number District Council meetings and most recently, at State Council on 4.12.16. VFBV will continue to work with Districts and VEOHRC to ensure as many of our members across the State have the opportunity to participate and have their say in this important Review

CFA and MFB provide a crucial service to the community, and all members deserve a workplace that is safe, fair and respectful.

If you wish to participate, you can still do so confidentially and anonymously.

Complete the online survey, or request a paper copy by calling VEOHRC on (03) 9032 3464. 

You can also use the details below to write to VEOHRC or arrange a confidential interview or face-to-face meeting:

  • Confidential phone line: (03) 9032 3464
  • Confidential email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Website: www.victorianhumanrightscommission.com/EDR/

The VEOHRC review team will make recommendations to CFA and MFB based on their findings. Your participation will not be reported back to the either organisation, and VEORHC will not name individual people or work locations in the final report.

The final report is still due to be published in mid-2017.

Published in Other News
Monday, 25 July 2016 00:00

22 JULY 2016 UPDATE ON THE CFA/UFU EBA

Items covered by this update include:

•             Court ordered consultation

•             CFA Board appointments

•             Proposed changes to the Federal Fair Work Act

•             VFBV’s next Steps

•             The Premier

•             Fundraising to support our campaign on behalf of volunteers

•             Actions you can take at the local level

SUPREME COURT ORDERED CONSULTATION BETWEEN CFA AND VFBV

The Supreme Court-ordered formal consultation came to an end on Wednesday, 20 July. 

There is now no legal requirement preventing the EBA from being pushed through, but there is also nothing preventing continuing consultation on the remaining matters.

VFBV has raised a number of key issues with CFA through the consultative process, but the result of our submissions is as yet unknown. Further, the consultation has been limited by the fact that there has only been about half, 5 of the 9 CFA board members in place.

Now that the remaining CFA Board members have been appointed, VFBV has written to CFA pointing out that it would be wrong if there wasn’t due time for that full complement of the Board with its full skills set to be able to work through the issues, understand the issues we have raised and make a properly informed decision.

The now-complete CFA Board must receive briefings on the full implications of proceeding with the EBA including all volunteer impacts and concerns, as well as studying all of the previous Chief Officer’s and CEO’s briefings, the relevant legal advice and full cost implications.

In the meantime, CFA is still required under the Supreme Court order to give VFBV written notice at least three business days before proceeding with the EBA in any form, and we have not received any written notice.

CFA BOARD APPOINTMENT OF VOLUNTEER NOMINEES

As set out in the CFA Act, VFBV provided a panel of nominees to be considered by the Minister for the four volunteer-nominated positions on the CFA Board.

The Act requires four volunteer nominees to ensure the CFA Board has strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of CFA volunteerism, as well as knowledge of, or experience in, commercial, technical, operational, legal or financial matters; as well as expertise in fire services, emergency management, land management or any other field relevant to the performance of the functions of the Authority. 

VFBV received a large number of expressions of interest in the CFA Board positions, conducted detailed interviews and provided a panel of eight nominees.

The four CFA Board Members appointed from the panel are;

Timothy Young - a member of CFA since 1980, Timothy is is Brigade Secretary and Treasurer at Little River Fire Brigade and brings with him an extensive background in law.

Lynda Hamilton – Lynda has been a CFA member since 2011, has held brigade management roles, and has a strong background in management consulting and change management.

Peter Shaw -  a Deputy Group Officer at Knox Fire Brigades Group and a volunteer firefighter since 1974, Peter has a long history in police and emergency services.

Hazel Clothier – Hazel has been a CFA member since 2008, is currently captain at Warburton Fire Brigade and has a background in biomedical science and epidemiology.

PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE FEDERAL FAIR WORK ACT

The Turnbull Federal Government has reconfirmed its commitment to changing the Fair Work Act to prevent enterprise bargaining agreements from disadvantaging volunteers, or undermining the capacity of the CFA or other emergency services volunteer bodies to properly manage their volunteer operations.

Federal Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, has also offered to use her powers under the Fair Work Act to prevent the proposed UFU EBA from coming into effect, saying she will seek leave to intervene in the Fair Work Commission to oppose the approval of the EBA on the grounds that it contains discriminatory terms. 

Should the EBA be approved by the Fair Work Commission, the Federal Minister has offered to request a review by the Full Bench of the Commission and possibly mount a challenge in the Federal Court.

The Government has advised VFBV that it will take legislation to the first sitting of the new Parliament, which will be at the end of August, and the legislation will affect all new and current EBAs including any UFU EBA.

VFBV’S NEXT STEPS

VFBV is now continuing to work to ensure the now-compete CFA Board fully understands volunteers’ concerns, the ramifications of approving the EBA and ways in which those concerns can be resolved.  It is important to repeat that none of our concerns are about the pay and conditions of paid firefighters.

We are working with Federal Government to ensure its intended legislation to change the Fair Work Act is effective in protecting volunteers from the effects of enterprise bargaining agreements.

VFBV will keep raising the issues with Members of Parliament, business and community leaders and the general public.

We are actively advocating through public forums, events and the media.

THE PREMIER

The Premier has been in the media talking about the issues we are raising as though they are bush lawyering and lies, which is a discouraging sign.

However, we have talked to the new Chairman of the CFA Board, the Interim CEO and CFA senior management.  Many of the senior CFA management still share many of the concerns that we have raised.  For the new Chairman and Interim CEO there is much new information to consider.

In the meantime, his often repeated remark that the dispute has been going for more than a thousand days is a red herring; for all but about 70 of those days, it was the Premier and the Minister holding up the EBA because of the same issues VFBV is raising now.

FUNDRAISING - VALUING VOLUNTEERS FUND DONATIONS

VFBV has established a Valuing Volunteers Support Fund to receive donations to support the work we are doing to protect, advocate and represent CFA volunteers.  Donations will be accepted from members of the public. Donations are not tax deductible, but donors can request a receipt.  There are more details on the VFBV website www.vfbv.com.au and Victorian Farmers Federation members can donate through the VFF.

Key areas of expenditure for funds donated are:

•             To liaise and consult on the operation of the CFA Volunteer Charter in the interests of CFA volunteers about all matters which might reasonably be expected to affect them.

•             To defend and strengthen public support for the CFA as a volunteer and community based fire and emergency service

•             To develop awareness, respect and support for CFA volunteers and their fundamental and pivotal role in the CFA as a volunteer and community based fire and emergency service for the people of Victoria

•             To preserve and strengthen CFA’s community and volunteer based foundations by enabling members of CFA brigades to consider and bring to the notice of CFA all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency

•             To assist in maintaining high morale, ongoing health and welfare of CFA volunteer members and their families

•             To assist with legal costs incurred in achieving all or any of the above purposes

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL

Volunteers should still be:

•             Emailing or writing to local MPs and talking to them at every opportunity

•             Arranging meetings with MPs and telling them about volunteers’ concerns

•             Raising the issue in local media and with your community

•             Keeping your signs, leaflets and other campaign materials ready, we may need to hit the streets at short notice

•             Promoting our fund raising efforts

•             And at all times, maintaining normal emergency response to the community and professional standards of behaviour, including respect and conduct towards our paid staff colleagues

Stay in touch with the issue via your State Councillors, our column in FireWise, www.vfbv.com.au and VFBV updates to volunteers.

Published in VFBV News
Tuesday, 19 July 2016 00:00

CFA Challenge Program 2017 - Apply Now

CFA Challenge Program is an annual, 12-day leadership development program open to all CFA members aged 16 and above.  Since 1994 more than 800 members have taken part in the Chairman’s Scholarship/Challenge Program.  Challenge 2017 will run from Saturday 14 January to Wednesday 25 January 2017 at Creswick and in Gippsland. The program aims to identify potential future leaders, and present challenges and experiences that will uncover and enhance their leadership abilities.

The first three days of the program are conducted at Melbourne University’s Creswick Campus, Creswick where participants explore their values and goals, and gain a greater understanding of their own motivators and personal interactions. The program enables participants to bond as a team and operate in a safe environment to maximise their learning potential and make the most of their time on the Challenge program.

These concepts are then put into practice as participants spend seven days in the bush, led by Outward Bound Australia, working to break down their own boundaries, overcome fears and test their team work and leadership abilities by completing a demanding, adventure based leadership and team development program, consisting of team building and adventure based activities including:

  • Bushwalking
  • White Water Rafting
  • Abseiling
  • Caving
  • Orienteering
  • Rock Climbing
  • Canoeing

The Challenge 2017 program will provide participants with the opportunities to:

  • Clarify personal values, and discover more about their potential;
  • Develop leadership skills and attributes;
  • Confront and overcome self-imposed limits;
  • Learn how to better relate to others;
  • Enhance self-motivation and personal performance; and
  • Be a supportive and creative team member.

Andrea Bastow, from Kilmore Fire Brigade was a participant of Challenge 2016 and strongly recommends this opportunity to other members. “Whether you want to take the next step as a leader or if you want to learn more about what you are capable of, Challenge is the ideal experience for you” said Andrea.

“I not only picked up new skills and learned things about myself, but I’ve also build a bond and found lifelong friendships” she added.

“The CFA Challenge Program taught me that I can rise to any challenge – I can even climb a mountain apparently.” 

Katelyn Stares, now a senior member at Sebastopol, says if it wasn't for experiences such as the CFA Challenge Program, which she attended in 2014, she wouldn't be the person she is today. 

Past participants consistently describe Challenge as a ‘life changing experience’. It has become a highly regarded and sought-after development opportunity for which participants are selected on merit, enthusiasm and leadership potential.  Challenge runs 2 courses simultaneously - Group 1 - CFA members 16 & 17 years of age and Group 2 - CFA members over the age of 18 years.

Challenge 2017 applications will be open online from Monday 25 July and must be completed by the applicant, endorsed by the Brigade Captain/Line Manager and submitted to the local District Learning and Development Team by Wednesday 14 September 2016.

To apply, download the Application & Selection Guidelines and relevant Application Form from: 

Brigades Online/Intranet (https://cfaonline.cfa.vic.gov.au>Training>Course Information>Challenge). 

Enquiries This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in CFA News
Wednesday, 29 June 2016 00:00

CFA EBA Volunteer Feedback

Attached at the bottom of this page, is the current copy of the proposed CFA-UFU Operational Staff Enterprise Agreement 2016 version 17.4, which has been provided to VFBV for consultation purposes arising from our recent court action to enforce the consultation provisions of the Volunteer Charter.

This document is provided to you for examination by members of your brigade for feedback covering such things as:

  • questions
  • concerns
  • practical Implications
  • local volunteer capacity implications
  • impacts on CFA operating as a fully integrated organisation
  • potential to discourage volunteers or impact on their welfare and efficiency
  • potential impacts on CFA’s volunteer based culture
  • anything that might limit or erode support for volunteers
  • anything that impacts on CFA’s ability to genuinely consult with volunteers

This latest document (referenced by CFA as version 17.4) does have some changes made since the last version provided to VFBV by CFA on 15th June, but still provides clear evidence that the comments by the Premier and Deputy Premier are misleading to say the least. The document should also serve to dispel any criticisms of VFBV’s broad concerns and comments made to date as “unfounded and misleading” by Premier Andrew’s, new Minister Merlino and UFU leadership.

Clearly this latest version of the proposed enterprise agreement speaks for itself as did earlier versions when they were made public. The matters of concern that we have raised are either written in the document itself or would be the necessary outworking’s of the implementation and operation of various clauses on volunteers and the organisation and operation of the CFA as a volunteer based and fully integrated fire and emergency service.

Recent independent legal commentary by Mr Jack Rush QC sums it up well by stating that the UFU EBA proposal is contrary to the CFA Act because it works against the idea that CFA is first and foremost a volunteer based organisation in which volunteers and paid staff are to work in a fully integrated manner; it undermines the role of volunteers; and it provides unprecedented powers to the UFU.

CFA have assured us, consistent with their undertakings to the Supreme Court, that this is the latest version of the proposed agreement and incorporates a range of changes to earlier versions including amendments recommended by Fair Work Commissioner Roe and subsequent further amendments in response to issues raised by the CFA Board (now ex-Board) recommended by Fair Work President Ross.

At a fundamental level our concerns with previous drafts of the UFU EBA proposal are not addressed. There has been some change in the detail but the EBA still includes clauses that interfere with the Chief Officer’s operational resource decision making autonomy; directly impact on the provision of support to volunteer brigades; affect the way the CFA integrated system works; affect the role of volunteers and impact on CFA brigades across Victoria, not just the 34 Integrated brigades as stated by Premier Andrews and recently appointed Minister Merlino.

Recent claims made by Premier Andrew’s and Minister Merlino that the UFU EBA proposal only impacts on the work of paid staff or on the way CFA’s 34 Integrated brigades operate is not only fundamentally wrong in terms of the way CFA’s volunteer and integrated brigades network together to respond to incidents but it is also categorically wrong given the fact that:

  • provision of Brigade Administrative Support (BASO) to all CFA volunteer brigades will be altered by clause 15;
  • the support provided by CFA Volunteer Support Officers to CFA volunteer brigades across Victoria will be altered by clause 16;
  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal perpetuates the UFU’s long running ban on any volunteer brigade being supported by Community Safety Facilitators despite volunteer brigades repeatedly pointing out that this brigade support initiative is still regarded as one of the most successful volunteer support initiatives ever;
  • at any fire ground where volunteers and paid staff come together at an incident the reporting relationships and line of control becomes unclear given clause 35.4 which at a minimum creates confusion and at worst is likely to unpack the current CFA integrated system (not to mention it appears to specifically exclude DELWP staff being recognized as incident controllers);
  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal perpetuates deficiencies in the CFA’s paid training staff workforce management arrangements, an issue highlighted repeatedly by volunteers, CFA and recent independent inquiries;
  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal specifically dictates the future operational and resource arrangements for a number of fully volunteer brigades, despite Premier Andrew’s and Minister Merlino’s claims that there is no impact beyond the existing 34 integrated brigades
  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal introduces changes to Road Accident Rescue, a function currently performed by many CFA and SES volunteer brigades and units
  • the UFU EBA (17.4) proposal introduces a process to change the way CFA responds to incidents affecting many more brigades than the existing 34 integrated brigades and it is unclear how volunteers would be consulted about this process and form to date would suggest that if it ends in Fair Work Australia, volunteers would have no say
  • various clauses requiring agreement between CFA and the UFU mean that obligations to consult with volunteers are likely to be sidelined or potentially ignored
  • various clauses about dispatch of paid firefighters to incidents ignore the role and capacity of trained volunteer firefighters, impact on many more than the 34 integrated brigades and enable an EBA instrument to override the Chief Officer’s powers and decision making
  • and the list goes on…

Sadly, most of the crucial concerns we have had with previous versions have still not been properly addressed in the latest proposed agreement. The Government’s claims that a new clause (7A.1) which states “The role of volunteers in fighting bushfires and maintaining community safety and delivering high quality services to the public in remote and regional areas and in integrated stations is not altered by this agreement” fails to recognise that CFA brigades do more than fight bushfires in remote and regional areas and either cleverly or by accidental omission ignores the fact that CFA volunteer brigades service a huge part of metropolitan Melbourne and provincial centres & townships across Victoria.

We will be asking for clarification during this consultation stage as to what this clause means and how it works when other clauses contained in the EBA specifically contradict this clause. We know that CFA’s own assessment is that the EBA clauses affect many more than the 34 integrated brigades and fundamentally alters the way CFA works today as a volunteer based and integrated system. By what it omits to say, if this clause is aiming to suggest that the role of volunteers in outer metropolitan Melbourne and urban communities will be altered, then this would be a matter of serious concern.  The failure of this clause to specifically recognize the role of volunteers in the urban risk environment is consistent with our assessment of the impact of many of the clauses that this EB would have on the CFA volunteer capability that we have today, and at a fundamental level reinforces our concern.

Premier Andrew’s and Minister Merlino continue to make public comment that all volunteer issues have been addressed despite the fact that they still have not bothered to seek to understand VFBV’s concerns, instead the Minister has advised us that cabinet have made their decision.

Until the consultative process we are working through with CFA is completed, and despite the Government ignoring Ex Minister Garrett’s, the now sacked CFA Board’s, and the Ex CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan’s advice, we remain hopeful that the Government will not continue to ignore volunteer and VFBV concerns.

Because of the Court arrangements, timelines for both member/brigade consultation and direct consultation with CFA are very tight and your expedited assistance is required.  We also apologise for the delay in sending you a copy of the latest proposed agreement – a single hard copy was provided to us late Friday with CFA restrictions placed on its circulation which then became a matter for further legal advice and determination. The electronic copy was only provided to us late yesterday.

It is proposed that your feedback, particularly your assessment of the key issues affecting your brigade and its operations, be sent by no later than the evening of Sunday 10 July. In the circumstances, any initial observations, comments and feedback at an earlier time would be most welcome with any further detail submitted by 10 July.

Our next formal discussion with CFA is currently scheduled for Friday, 8 July and it is anticipated that a schedule of formal consultation meetings with then continue until 19 July.

We look forward to your earliest response on this matter of fundamental importance to CFA volunteers. Attached is a generic template you can use to provide feedback if it helps, and we have also attached an initial impact analysis that whilst based on 17.2, will be used to re-assess version 17.4 in the coming days. Appreciate of concerns that members are raising about confidentiality and their fears of retribution, all responses will be consider confidential, and will all be consolidated to anonymize any responses. You can send your feedback back to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in VFBV News
Friday, 17 June 2016 00:00

Note to Members

On behalf of the VFBV Board and volunteer leaders across CFA, it is with sadness and regret that I write to advise members that today Minister Merlino announced the sacking of the CFA Board, and shortly after this there was a separate announcement from CEO Lucinda Nolan, announcing her resignation effective immediately. This is a sad day for CFA and a sign of the incredibly challenging times we find ourselves in.

I don’t wish to mix messages about my disappointment in the Government’s move to sack the CFA Board nor the pressures that have led to CEO Lucinda Nolan deciding to resign with my thanks and praise for the work that all of these people have done for CFA during their time with us. But I certainly will have more to say about that concern elsewhere.

For now my message is thank you to each and every one of the CFA Board members for your contribution, your values and your efforts. We haven’t always agreed about every decision but certainly on this threshold issue of your stance to attempt to save CFA, you have been exemplary.

To Lucinda Nolan, CFA’s first ever female CEO, I know I speak for volunteers across the state with our admiration for your integrity, your openness and your strong leadership. There have been many challenges confronting CFA in recent years, and many described you as the bright light on the hill that was going to help us move forward in a terrific way. The work you were likely to do has been cut short and Victoria will be the worse off. Thank you in the short time you were here, you have left a strong mark on CFA and we won’t forget you.

Andrew Ford

VFBV Chief Executive Officer

Published in VFBV News

*** URGENT ACTION REQUIRED – VFBV MUST PROVIDE A PANEL OF CFA BOARD CANDIDATES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE ***  

The State Government has dismissed the CFA Board and named five new Board Members. After the announcement, the Government called upon VFBV to provide candidates for the remaining four CFA Board positions, as required under the CFA Act.

We have just received a letter from the Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino, asking that VFBV provide a panel of candidates from which he will chose those four Board Members.

The Act places a time limit on this process, stating that “If the Board of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria fails to submit a nomination for the purposes of subsection (4) within 30 days after receiving a request from the Minister to submit a nomination, the Governor in Council may after having regard to subsection (2) appoint a person or persons to be a member or members of the Authority for the purposes of subsection (4).”

Accordingly, it is vital that we identify, interview and select suitable candidates as soon as possible.  

The CFA Act requires that the four VFBV nominated members include two volunteer members of brigades predominantly serving urban communities and two volunteer members of brigades predominantly serving rural communities as per the CFA Act.

The CFA Act defines the appointment process for CFA Board Members to ensure the CFA Board has the skills and expertise required to operate as a high performing Board; to recognise and reinforce the importance of the Board possessing strong knowledge, expertise and understanding of CFA volunteerism; and prescribes the criteria for appointment to the Board as having knowledge of, or experience in, commercial, technical, operational, legal or financial matters; or expertise in fire or emergency management, land management or any other field relevant to the performance of the functions of the CFA.

CFA volunteers who believe they have the skills, experience and capacity to make a contribution to the Board of the CFA, and ensure that the CFA Board has both strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of volunteerism, AND skills in commercial, technical, operational, legal or financial matters, are invited to apply for these vacancies. Past applicants can apply.

The CFA Board meets on a monthly basis and also operates a committee system which could require a commitment of one half day per month. Attendance at official functions is also expected.

Remuneration for a member of the CFA Board currently is $17,314 p.a.

Please disseminate this information through your own networks, and personally provide it to any potential candidates that you know.

The Victorian Government is committed to having Boards that are both highly effective and also reflective of the diverse communities we serve. VFBV shares this commitment. The Premier has expressed an objective for no less than 50% of all future appointments to paid government boards to be women, by November 2018. VFBV is seeking a strong panel of applicants, both men and women who are suitably qualified and experienced for the CFA Board role.

A Role Statement is available for download here (Updated 28 June 2016) or available from the VFBV office. For other relevant information, interested volunteers should contact VFBV at the contact details below.

Applications including a current resume and a summary of your skills, experience and achievements that will enable you to contribute to a CFA Board that requires collectively;

  • expertise in commercial, technical, operational, legal and financial matters
  • expertise in fire services, emergency management, land management and the functions of CFA, and
  • expertise, knowledge and experience in CFA and CFA volunteering,

should be emailed or faxed to VFBV as soon as possible, AND BY NO LATER THAN 1700 HOURS, MONDAY, 4 JULY 2016, to Email: j.laingThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Fax 03 9886 1618.

Queries can be directed to Jenni Laing, on (03) 9886 1141 in the first instance.

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 00:00

Consider a Role with VFBV

VFBV is established under Victorian law, the Country Fire Authority Act, to represent the volunteers on all matters that affect their welfare and efficiency.

VFBV is made up of CFA volunteers – from individual members of Brigades, through their elected District Councils and State Councillors, to the VFBV Board. 

There are lots of roles for volunteers who want to contribute;

  • Brigade Delegate – the ideal role for the younger member building their skills or the older member who is retiring from turning out but still wants to contribute
  • District Council executive member
  • Joint Committee member
  • State Councillor
  • Subject Matter Expert for Joint Committees
  • VFBV Board Member
  • Nominee to the CFA Board

All of these roles can be greatly rewarding, and former CFA Chair Claire Higgins recently offered great encouragement and an insight into the role of a Board Member, in a story in the March edition of FireWise.

From FireWise, March 2016

CONSIDER YOUR SKILLS FOR THE BOARD

By former CFA Chair Claire Higgins

I’ve missed being part of CFA since my resignation in September last year, so when Andrew Ford made contact with me recently to ask me to write this article, I jumped at the chance to make a contribution.

I was part of CFA for eight years. During this time I was fortunate to work with a number of volunteers who put their hand up to be part of the CFA Board, helping to ensure it has the necessary strong volunteer expertise, knowledge and an understanding of CFA volunteerism.

Whilst from very different walks of life, their contribution was always to promote volunteerism, represent their communities, and work for the best interests of CFA and the Victorian community.

When I think of the volunteer representatives I have worked with over the years on the Board, amongst others, I think of current board member Ross Coyle – a farmer and businessman, Michael Tudball – an executive at a municipal council, James Holyman – an executive within government, John Schurink – a former senior manager with Ambulance Victoria and executive member of ESTA, Paul Denham – with an expertise in project management and construction, Frank Zeigler – a businessman where safety is a core part of his business, and Peter Marke – with experience in community banking.

Each of the volunteer representatives came to the Board table with their experience, and they all came with a desire to work as a team, challenge the status quo and build a better CFA.

One thing that has struck me over time has been the lack of women. It’s a surprise because over the eight years I have come across many women CFA volunteers who are as ably skilled to contribute to the CFA Board. For example, as Board Chair, I met with a lady who was a volunteer, who in her day job, worked in the local health service. When I posed the question to her about putting her hand up to be part of the VFBV Board, or indeed the CFA Board, she was surprised that I thought that she would have the skill.

My message is, don’t underestimate your skill and your value. VFBV wants to build a pool of people that they can mentor and develop so that they can present a true representation of the depth of CFA volunteers – particularly women.

The CFA Board needs to be able to represent its community. VFBV and volunteers give the CFA the best opportunity to do this.

So from all walks of life, put your hand up, be bold, you won’t regret the journey on which you embark. You will be both challenged and rewarded for the experience.

I know Andrew Ford is keen to hear from interested prospective CFA and VFBV Board nominees, so please feel free to contact him at the VFBV office.

 

 

 

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 15 June 2016 00:00

VFBV Requests for Meaningful Consultation

MESSAGE TO ALL MEMBERS

This update is to provide you information concerning VFBV’s attempts to enact the provision of the CFA Act and Volunteer Chart that obligate the State of Victoria to genuinely consult with volunteers through their representative body (VFBV) on any matters that may affect them, before decisions are made.

•             The State Government has not accepted a single one of VFBV’s requests to meet and discuss our concerns to date

The chief demand of the VFBV throughout the CFA-UFU negotiations has been that we must be included in meaningful consultation with the Government and the CFA over the content of the EBA as it may affect volunteers. This demand is simply for the rights of volunteers to consultation – to be heard and views considered based on volunteer knowledge and experience - on matters that may affect them as specified in the Volunteer Charter and given legal force by the CFA Act.

Meaningful consultation means that we would be given the details of those matters, have the opportunity to fully assess them from the perspective of volunteers, consult with our membership and help shape the final words in discussion with the relevant decision makers to ensure volunteer interests are represented and protected.

From the outset we have made very clear that we have no wish to discuss or voice a view over pay, allowances, leave, and other conditions applicable to individual paid firefighters. In our view, they are properly matters between CFA as the employer and the UFU representing paid staff.

But as we have seen from past operational staff industrial agreements, there is an increasing tendency to include matters in UFU-CFA EBAs which affect volunteers in regard to support, availability of adequate training, equipment, volunteer rights and the way in which we deliver CFA services to Victorians.

We have also witnessed increases in union power over a variety of CFA management and leadership matters under UFU EBAs that are supposed to be matters that are the strict role of the CFA Board, CFA CEO and, importantly, our Chief Officer. Volunteers are both directly and indirectly affected by the establishment of greater union influence and power over such matters.

For example, the issues of determining staff numbers and rank allocation of paid staff to brigades, appliance staffing and operations on the fireground, including reporting relationships are, under the CFA Act, matters under the control and responsibility of the Chief Officer. Yet the Chief’s power to determine these matters is reduced, and in some aspects eliminated under the terms of recent EBAs. In other words, an EBA registered under the federal industrial Act incorporating changes in the organisation and operation of CFA in accordance with the Union’s agreement trumps those established by Victorian law, in our case the CFA Act and,where relevant, the Emergency Management Act. As we have previously advised, we understand that the drafts of the proposed 2016 EBA contain clauses that go well beyond the union’s influence and powers under any previous EBA.

It is these aspects of the proposed EBA that we wish to be consulted upon and in turn consult with brigades and their volunteers in a meaningful way to inform and help shape any EBA related decisions by Government and the CFA to reflect volunteer concerns.

We wrote to the Premier and Minister for Emergency Services on 30 May 2016, outlining our concerns over the then proposed 2016 EBA. In that letter we advised that we had sought to pursue our concerns in conferences of the Fair Work Commission but that our application to participate based on the interests of volunteers affected by the proposed agreement had been denied. Finally, we proposed three simple amendments to the agreement that might significantly alleviate our concerns. The following day we wrote to each member of Cabinet seeking meetings to discuss our concerns over issues contained in the then draft of the proposed 2016 EBA. Only a handful of ministers have replied with courtesy letters referring us to the Minister for Emergency Services.

Following recommendations by Fair Work Commissioner Julius Roe regarding a further draft of the EBA incorporating minor changes and his further recommendations for minor change we again wrote to the Premier (and Deputy Premier in his role as acting Premier) and the Minister for Emergency Services.

In our letters to them dated 7th June we urgently requested that they initiate consultation with VFBV on behalf of Victoria’ 60,000 CFA volunteers on any matter that may affect volunteers (in the EBA) prior to any relevant decisions being made. A letter of request for consultation in similar terms was also submitted to CFA on the same day.

The following day we received an acknowledgement of our correspondence signed by the Premier and Minister for Emergency Services sent from the Premier’s Office. Their letter stated in part:

We understand you wished to be informed of developments around the proposed CFA enterprise agreement and have asked Emergency Management Victoria and the Department of Premier and Cabinet to make arrangements to meet with you about this.

This response failed to understand, deliberately or not, that there is a major difference between the meaningful consultation we had sort as per the legally binding Volunteer Charter and merely being informed of developments.

It was then determined to arrange for our solicitor to send legal communication to both Government and CFA to make absolutely explicit the terms and manner of immediate consultation required and undertakings that there would be no decisions on the EBA until the completion of consultations in accordance with the Volunteer Charter and the CFA Act.

We gave them until close of business on Thursday 9 June 2016 to respond to our letter.

CFA responded within the due time saying they would abide by the CFA Act (and therefore the Volunteer Charter) once they were in receipt of the final version of the EBA for consideration.

At the time of writing we have received no further response from the Victorian Government to our requests.

Attached to this circular are copies of the following letters for your information and that of other volunteers:

  1. VFBV letter to Premier dated 30th May 2016
  2. VFBV letter to the Premier dated 7th June 2016
  3. Premier (and Minister’s) acknowledgement, undated but received 8th June 2016
  4. RobinsonGill representing VFBV letter to Premier dated 8 June 2016
  5. RobinsonGill representing VFBV letter to CFA dated 8 June 2016

Please distribute through your networks.

Published in VFBV News

NEW ARTICLES AND VIDEO - See coverage on the front page of the Weekly Times, and in The Age and in the Herald Sun.

See below for pictures from Sunday's CFA volunteers' rally in the Treasury Gardens.

Here are a few words from the rally on respect for all firefighters.

Here's the fundamental issue in a nutshell.

And a few words on Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett.

The Age has posted an opinion piece on solutions to what it describes as the 'farcical fight' over the CFA/UFU Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

Published in VFBV News
Thursday, 19 May 2016 00:00

CFA Operational EBA Update

UPDATE 27 MAY 2016

CFA Operational EBA update - Friday 27 May 2016

This week, we have been attending hearings at the Fair Work Commission as part of Operational EBA negotiations.

We have now made formal written submissions to the Commissioner, and have again reinforced CFA’s position around any clauses proposed by the UFU that would:

  • remove or diminish the ability of the Chief Officer to allocate and deploy resources flexibly and with agility
  • require agreement or provide veto to UFU over CFA management decisions
  • restrict or negatively impact on volunteers and BASOs.

The Commissioner will now consider our final submissions and will provide some potential next steps to resolve this matter.

A final hearing will be held at Fair Work on Monday, and the Commissioner is expected to discuss his thoughts and potential solutions to progress the current process.

This could involve handing down recommendations for all parties to consider.

CFA remains committed to resolving the matter as soon as possible, however any deal must be fair and affordable, and must not adversely impact on volunteers and needs to benefit Victorians.

From the Organisational Leadership Team – Lucinda Nolan, Joe Buffone, John Haynes, Steve Warrington, Garry Cook, Ross Sullivan, Trevor Owen, Bob Barry, Gavin Thompson, Peter O’Keefe, Paul King, Kate Harrap, Emma Tyner, Phil Harbutt, Margareth Thomas, Terry Hayes.

 

UPDATE 18 MAY 2016

Following more enquiries regarding the EBA, the CFA Organisational Leadership Team has released an updated EBA Information sheet, which is replicated below. You can download a PDF version either form the link at the bottom of this page, or directly from the CFA website; http://news.cfa.vic.gov.au/news/operational-eba-update-18-may-2016.html 

 

Ops EBA information

There are a number of questions that have been raised about the EBA negotiations. We
want to make sure you have the facts.

What is being said

The UFU is only seeking more consultation, not veto power.
There is too much misinformation around the UFU log of claims.

Fire services are compromising safety by refusing to have a minimum 7 on a fireground before firefighting can begin.


Seven on the fireground is recognised best practice.

The proposed clause is limited to structural fires only and not for minor fires such as bin fires.

CFA is compromising safety by lowering standards for women recruits.
CFA is compromising safety by bringing on more contractors to work with career staff.
Firefighters will be worse off under the current offer.
CFA walked away from recommendations by Fair Work Commissioner Roe designed to resolve the dispute.
CFA is in no hurry to do a deal as it is hoping career staff give up.
CFA has no power to do a deal and is simply
taking orders from the Minister.
The workforce should be better consulted on business and operational decisions.
Career firefighters are best placed to conduct community safety and education, and new community education roles should only be filled by career firefighters.

CFA is attacking the 10/14 system.

CFA wants to introduce 8/8/8.

CFA is trying to change the Modern Award by introducing part time firefighting so that they can start to introduce brigades staffed by part-timers.

CFA is holding out on resolving this Agreement when there are only a few clauses left to negotiate.

Communication in the past has been limited – the union is the only communication that we are receiving.

The EBA does not affect the volunteers and it should not concern them.

The EBA does not include drivers for
Commanders

The Facts

The UFU has sought to introduce 50 new and separate clauses within the body of the EBA whose effect would be to require agreement from, or provide power of veto to, the UFU over CFA management decisions.

Examples of where UFU agreement would be required include:

  • Formulation of and changes to position descriptions
  • Formulation of and changes to work related policies
  • Contracting out
  • Lateral entry of career firefighters
  • Part-time career firefighters
  • Emergency response training
  • Matters impacting volunteers

The UFU presented these clauses in a draft EBA to the Victorian Government. CFA argues it would be beneficial if all members covered by the proposed agreement had access to the current proposal (version 17.1) so that they are appropriately informed about the discussions, issues and impacts.

As this is a UFU document, and not CFA’s proposal, CFA has written to the UFU to seek their agreement to make it available to their members.

The clauses relevant to this issue are as follows:

Clause 44 and 44.2.7 together with clause 83.5 - The presence of 7 firefighters on the fireground prior to the commencement of operations save and accept where otherwise agreed between the UFU and CFA. (Note that fire-fighter is defined by the UFU document as 'paid firefighter').

As per the clause, there are no parameters set around the type of fireground incident (e.g. structural).

Seven career firefighters on a fireground before firefighting can begin is not recognised as best practice by other jurisdictions outside Victoria nor is it supported by peak body, AFAC.

The most recent reviews conducted in the UK recognise this as an out-dated worst case scenario approach rather than a contemporary risk-based service delivery model (Sir Ken Knight). A model based on “weight of attack” utilising scale, intensity and duration is the norm.

The principle and decisions around deployment must always be left to the incident controller based on risk assessment of the incident.

This clause would be a very expensive approach to delivering on any incident, irrespective of seriousness.

The cost issue is around having the number of resources available at any time rather than their actual attendance at a fire incident.

All career firefighter recruits will continue to have to meet the same minimum selection standards they always have. At the moment, less than 4% of CFA’s career staff are women. The fire services are determined to have a workforce that better reflects the community it serves.

We have not proposed at any time to change our use of contractors. This position was further supported when we proposed to rollover the 2010 Agreement.

The proposed offer included a pay rise of 19 per cent over four years (5% already provided), protected all current conditions and included new provisions in line with State Government election commitments.

Last January, the Fair Work Commission handed down draft recommendations to focus discussions between parties and to progress negotiations.

All parties were instructed to provide submissions on the feasibility and appropriateness of these recommendations, with a view to Commissioner Roe providing a set of final recommendations.

These were not final recommendations.

When Commissioner Roe asked whether the UFU would support his handing down of the final recommendations, they reserved their position.

CFA wants to resolve this Agreement as quickly as possible and continues to work with Government in an effort to resolve it.

At the same time as we are going through this process, the Government has committed to delivering the most significant investment for some time, including:

  • 350 new firefighters
  • Presumptive Legislation
  • PTSD trial
  • Emergency Medical Response
  • Building and upgrading fire stations
  • New fire trucks and equipment

The CFA Board Chair and the CEO are responsible for delivering and signing any new EBA.

CFA strongly supports consulting our workforce on changes and decisions about our future direction; however the UFU is seeking to have veto power over CFA decision-making in its business. That means the union must agree on changes we are proposing, not just be involved in consultation.

Decisions that should be made by the Chief Officer, Chief Executive Officer and other management will instead be in the hands of the UFU without any accountability for the running of the organisation.

All CFA members have a role in community safety and education. Our role in the community is not just about fighting fires, but about educating the community about being prepared and prevention. Often, it’s volunteers who have the connections and understanding within their own communities and therefore it is the right approach for them to conduct such services.

CFA has not challenged the 10/14 roster.

Our offer involved a rollover of the 2010 Agreement and does not seek to change this roster system.

We are seeking to amend the Modern Award so that we can offer individuals within our workforce greater flexibility over their careers.

Any introduction of part-time firefighting would be done after extensive consultation with our members and industrial bodies.

There are a significant number of clauses left to negotiate. Many of the clauses the union has asserted have been resolved have actually not been agreed to. 

There are three areas that are of greatest concern to CFA management:

  • Numerous clauses seeking UFU veto rights over management decisions;
  • Clauses that impact on resourcing decisions that reside with the CO;
  • Clauses that impact on people not actually covered by the EBA, such as volunteers, BASOs etc.

Many of the proposed clauses being proposed are unachievable and unaffordable.

There has been a confidentiality agreement in place under the FairWork Commission and we have been abiding by that. The confidentiality agreement is no longer in place and we will continue to update you on negotiations.

There are numerous clauses that either directly or indirectly impact our volunteer base. Some of these are listed below:

Clause 36.4 requires employees covered by the Agreement to report only to operational employees under the Agreement and to DCOs and the Chief Officer. This limits the capacity of qualified volunteers to, amongst other things, control incidents.

Clause 44.2.7, together with clause 83.5 require 7 professional firefighters to attend a ‘fireground incident before firefighting commences. This requirement will impact on CFA operational response involving volunteers in the sense that professional firefighters will not commence response work until 7 paid firefighters are present –regardless of the number of volunteers who are present.

Clause 45.14 requires 4 professional firefighters on all appliances unless otherwise agreed. This will impact on CFA operational response involving volunteers in that it will prevent response until a required number of paid firefighters are present, regardless of the number of volunteers who
are present.

Clause 45.15 prevents cross-crewing of appliances unless agreed by UFU and CFA. This will impact on CFA operational response involving volunteers in that it will limit or prevent cross-crewing of appliances by volunteers.

Clause 90 coupled with Schedule 20 provides strict limitations on provision of uniforms to operational staff covered by the Agreement – and limits the capacity of CFA to equip volunteer staff. It does this by clearly stating that stationwear and uniform and PPC must be ‘significantly visually distinguishable’ for professional firefighters and only made available to professional firefighters.

Clause 55 provides for rehabilitation units to be staffed by professional firefighter staff. CFA currently provides for rehabilitation units whose staff include volunteers and which carry out their roles effectively. UFU is seeking to exclude volunteers from the work without reason or justification.

Clause 17 deals with Community Education and provides that career fire-fighters will deliver community education and that volunteers may only do so when career firefighters are not available.

Clause 45.16 states that minimum staffing will include career fire-fighters to act as drivers for on-shift Commanders.

 

Organisational Leadership Team – Lucinda Nolan, Joe Buffone, John Haynes, Steve Warrington, Garry Cook, Ross Sullivan, Trevor Owen, Bob Barry, Gavin Thompson, Peter O’Keefe, Kate Harrap, Emma Tyner, Todd Perkinson, Phil Harbutt, Margareth Thomas, Terry Hayes

Published in VFBV News

Have you paid for your Tier 2 Digital Scanners yet?

Brigades/Groups have been emailed Tier 2 Order confirmations and have until the 15 May to pay for their Tier 2 orders.

Need more information? To can find more information on the successful subsidy program and see a generic copy of the confirmation documents click here.

Published in VFBV News

Coming up in August, the CFA-SES Community Engagement & Hazard Awareness State Forum is a 2-day community safety conference that brings together hundreds of emergency services personnel from across the state.

The conference provides training and mentoring opportunities to members. Participants can build on their community engagement knowledge; share outcomes of local community safety initiatives and projects; and expand their support networks.

The forum will take place at Mantra Lorne on the weekend of 6/7 August this year.  

Free of Charge: all conference costs, meals and overnight accommodation will be covered. Standard CFA approval requirements apply; volunteers must have approval from their Brigade Captain; employees must have approval from their Line Manager.

Any CFA member can register their interest in attending here:  State Forum 2016 RoI  

Registering does not guarantee a place at the State Forum - final attendees will be notified via email by 1 July 2016.

The State Forum is an initiative of CFA Member Engagement. For more information, Brigade members can talk to their CEC or BASO or contact CFA Member Engagement on (03) 9282 8982 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in CFA News
Monday, 09 May 2016 00:00

VFBV's FireWise Column - May 2016

IN THIS EDITION

Pictures - 400 CFA Trucks Encircle Parliament during the Motorcade of Support

Editorial - A Matter of CFA's Future and Victoria's Safety

Latest Video - CFA's Volunteer Surge Capacity - see the new computer generated model from VFBV and the University of Melbourne

Stories - VFBV Affiliations Due - National Volunteer Week - VFBV Youth Network - Annual Memorial Service - VFBV Board Vacancies - Digital Scanners - Payments Due

MOTORCADE OF SUPPORT

Photo courtesy ABC News

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Volunteer Motorcade of Support for the Minister, CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer.

We must maintain the dignified approach shown at the motorcade, and we should be proud of the non-political, dignified and respectful way volunteers showed their support for CFA and Minister Jane Garrett’s moral stand to ensure CFA is not sold out.

There were 421 vehicles from hundreds of brigades, with CFA appliances, privately owned fire appliances and support vehicles.

Of great importance were the hundreds of Brigades that registered with their Groups to assist with local coverage and to ensure our communities were protected whilst each District convoy left for Melbourne. Every one of CFA’s 21 Districts was represented, with vehicles from all corners of the state. Crews were professional and disciplined throughout the entire day, ensuring as little inconvenience to the public as possible, and we acknowledge the great support of Victoria Police, the City of Melbourne and the PSO’s from Parliament House.

Photo courtesy Nine News

 

EDITORIAL: A MATTER OF CFA’S FUTURE AND VICTORIA’S SAFETY

By Andrew Ford, VFBV Chief Executive Officer

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of attention, both publicly and within CFA, regarding concerns for the future of CFA as we know it.

As this copy goes to print, CFA has published an Ops EBA Update that clarifies some of the key facts about the concerns that have underpinned the recent attention.

Certainly there is significant concern amongst volunteers across Victoria, but VFBV and individual volunteers are not the only ones who hold these concerns.

Despite the claims that a very small minority might be peddling, this is not a media beatup, it is a genuine concern held by VFBV, the CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer, the Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett, and - behind closed doors - many other senior officials in the emergency management hierarchy.

The concerns come from the United Firefighters’ Union’s current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement log of claims that include numerous interrelated clauses that seek to; give the UFU control and power of veto over CFA operational and resource decision making; direct how volunteer support is provided in CFA; sideline and diminish the role of volunteers; and dismantle the CFA’s current volunteer and integrated model.

These are real concerns, they drive a wedge between paid staff and volunteers, and to use CFA’s own words, the log of claims is unworkable.

Let me be quite clear, VFBV has no interest in those aspects of the log of claims that relate to CFA career firefighters’ pay.

From the outset our message has been very clear, both publicly and within CFA; give the CFA paid firefighters their 19% increase and settle the pay dispute as quickly as possible.

But we must support the views of those charged with public safety and the safety of the people of Victoria and must support them in their view to not sit by and let control of CFA be handed over to the UFU, not just from our own perspective, but on behalf of the communities we have sworn to protect.

Our motorcade in Melbourne on 23 April was a fantastic show of a united CFA, getting behind the CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer, and Minister Jane Garrett, who are doing the moral and proper thing of standing firm against the UFU’s attempt to control CFA.

There is a huge amount of detail sitting behind this issue and I don’t have space to go into it here, so I encourage you to read CFA’s latest EBA Update or visit www.vfbv.com.au for more information.

These are very testing times, we all need to show personal leadership and remember the only thing we are driving for is a strong, sustainable CFA, focused on supporting and protecting our communities.

Many people are pondering what the solution might be.

Here are the basics of the solution as I see them, for all of our leaders including those from Government, CFA Board and management, Emergency Management Victoria, the UFU and VFBV.

Commit to working together to achieve an EBA that;

• Cannot override CFA operational and resource decision making

• Does not diminish or interfere with the roles performed by volunteers or the support provided to volunteers

• Does not dismantle CFA’s volunteer based and fully integrated model

• Does not block or reduce CFA and Government’s obligation to consult with volunteers on matters that affect them before decisions are made.

There is now formal advice available to all CFA members, through the CFA EBA Ops Update released on 3 May, that outlines clauses in the current UFU log of claims that go beyond dealing with pay and conditions and work directly in contradiction to the four points listed above.

I have written to CFA requesting that these clauses be considered in light of CFA legislation, the CFA Volunteer Charter and the future of CFA itself.

I ask everyone reading this to remember that this debate is not about volunteers versus paid firefighters.

We all know that volunteers and paid staff generally have great working relationships and we must continue to respect one another.

Before anyone starts judging the other’s argument, anyone in a position to do so should ring the UFU office or CFA for a copy of the latest log of claims and take a look at what is written.

I think you will find very quickly that there is cause for concern and that most CFA members, paid and volunteer alike, will agree that some aspects of the UFU’s log of claims simply go too far.

This is not an issue between volunteers and the UFU, nor is it between VFBV and the UFU; this is an issue about the future of CFA and ensuring that CFA and its Chief Officer can manage the organisation without union interference.

Let’s remember this is a unique situation where volunteers, VFBV, CFA management, the CFA Board and the Minister are all of one view; that the log of claims will give the union too much control over CFA, will dismantle CFA’s integrated model and will diminish and erode the work volunteers do.

The attention that volunteers are bringing to this issue is vital to ensuring a sensible outcome for Victoria.

We should keep this up and escalate it if need be, until the matter is resolved fairly and sensibly.

In the meantime, I say this again; we have absolutely no quarrel with paid firefighters receiving their pay increase, and only wish that matter could be resolved quickly, so we can get on with the work of protecting Victorian communities.

 

EVIDENCE OF CFA’s VOLUNTEER SURGE CAPACITY

Computer Modelling from VFBV and the University of Melbourne

Following the success of our earlier animated video on volunteer surge capacity, VFBV has been working with the University of Melbourne on a computer-generated time lapse video that graphically demonstrates CFA’s huge volunteer surge capacity.

You can see the computer modelled video on our YouTube channel here.

The video shows incidents and crews responding, and will help educate the public and Government on how CFA Volunteers are essential for Victoria’s Safety and Emergency Services.

We have been building versions for each District, and will shortly distribute copies to your District Councils, for use with the public, decision makers and your own volunteers.

 

VFBV AFFILIATIONS DUE

Renewal notices for your Brigade/Group’s VFBV Affiliation and Brigade’s VFBV Volunteer Welfare Fund subscription are with your Secretary now, with a due date of 30 June, 2016.

We also strongly encourage Brigades to subscribe to the VFBV Welfare Fund in the interests of supporting your members in times of personal hardship.

For enquiries, contact your State Councillors or call (03) 9886 1141.

 

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK

National Volunteer Week is May 9 to 15, and an opportunity to set aside the customary volunteers’ modesty for a moment and accept the thanks of the community.

It is also a chance to thank those who volunteer in supporting roles, and members of the community who help to make your Brigade’s vital work possible.

Volunteer Week is an also opportunity for recruiting and fundraising.

For assistance in engaging local media contact VFBV on (03) 9886 1141.

And we’d like to extend our thanks to every volunteer who takes part at any level, and helps to make VFBV, the voice of the volunteers, such an effective representative organisation.

 

VFBV YOUTH NETWORK

There has been an overwhelming response to the CFA Multi- Agency Youth Forum to be held on 21 May – the forum will involve St John, Red Cross, SES and Ambulance Victoria as well as CFA, and VFBV will be showcased.

VFBV is hosting the Emergency Management sector Multi- Agency Youth Network, providing the foundation for young people to help us implement other initiatives to engage young people; to consider new ideas and perspectives across the range of issues we deal with, and to shape VFBV, CFA and the Emergency Management Sector into the future.

Our call for Expressions of Interest has gone to all Districts to identify VFBV Champions, experienced CFA volunteers who will support our young people in their work in the Youth Network.

Stay tuned to www.vfbv.com.au for updates, or call Chris Fryer on 03 9886 1141.

 

ANNUAL MEMORIAL SERVICE

Our Board Members and other senior VFBV officials were among the many volunteers who attended the moving ceremony at this year’s CFA Annual Memorial Service at Wodonga.

The service paid respect to the 67 Victorian firefighters who have died in the line of duty over the years, with this year’s service held in Wodonga to mark the 10th anniversary of the line of duty deaths of Trevor Day, Campbell’s Creek Fire Brigade and Rebecca Helwig from Barnawartha Fire Brigade.

The memorial is held on the Sunday closest to International Firefighters’ Day, known as St Florian’s Day (4 May), and is a formal and reflective day to acknowledge and remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their communities.

 

VFBV BOARD VACANCIES

Four positions on the VFBV Board will become vacant this year, and interested volunteers are invited to apply.

The closing date for written applications is Monday, 1 August 2016.

For more details, see the advertisement below, or on page 10 of the May 2016 of edition of FireWise.

 

DIGITAL SCANNERS PAYMENT DUE

The VESEP-funded subsidy program for digital scanners has now been completed - Brigades are reminded they must pay for their Tier 2 orders by 15 May

For enquiries, call (03) 9886 1141.

 

THE LATEST NEWS

Get the latest in our email newsletter or VFBV’s popular Two Minute Briefing from the VFBV/CFA Joint Committees - register here.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cfavolor follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/vfbv or on Instagram @volunteer_fire_brigades_vic

 

 

Board Members of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV)

Invitation to apply

Four VFBV Board vacancies – for a 2 year term until 1st October 2018

Closing date for written applications is Monday 1st August 2016

VFBV advances the interests of all Victorian fire brigade volunteers and advocates on their behalf to CFA and other key stakeholders. The VFBV Board drives policy development based on volunteer input and is involved in management of issues of central importance to all CFA volunteers.

Vacancies for Four Board Members will arise when the terms of Nev Jones, Andy Cusack, Bruce Pickett & Bill Maltby expire on 1st October 2016; all members are eligible for re-appointment.

The term of appointment will be for two years and applications are invited from interested volunteers to be considered for these vacancies.

The role of a VFBV Board Member involves contributing to VFBV direction, policy determination and monitoring the performance and governance of the Association. Also actively contributing to policy discussion at Board Meetings, networking with others about policies and issues management, and not only making decisions but being prepared to actively advocate for the benefit of all CFA volunteers and ultimately the Victorian community.

A Board Member Role Statement including the key selection criteria is available from the VFBV office or website www.vfbv.com.au/index.php/about/vfbv/vfbvboard

This is an honorary position; no honorarium is paid.

If you are motivated by the prospect of making a difference for CFA volunteers, then send your written application addressing the key selection criteria in the role statement, plus an outline of your CFA activity including the names of two referees.

Applications must be lodged with VFBV by Monday 1st August 2016.

to:        VFBV, P O Box 453, Mt Waverley 3149

            Tel: 9886 1141;   Fax: 9886 1618

            Email: j.laingThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in VFBV News
HERE’S THE LATEST - 

VFBV rejects the Fair Work Commission’s recommendations and the premise that it is able to be a fair and independent umpire in this case

Fair Work Commission recommendations

The Fair Work Commission has issued recommendations on the CFA/UFU Enterprise Bargaining Agreement that represent the threat of union control over CFA.

Download the Fair Work Commission’s recommendations here

VFBV had applied to consult with and assist the Commission (see VFBV’s letter here) in understanding the impact and overall effect of various union clauses in the proposed agreement, particularly regarding the delivery of CFA protection to the communities it serves.

Our application to be heard on these issues on behalf of CFA volunteers was rejected by the Commission. This was despite the fact CFA volunteers comprise 97% of CFA’s workforce and large parts of the proposed Agreement directly affects them.

The recommendations are unacceptable to CFA volunteers; they are totally inadequate in ensuring that CFA remains an effective volunteer and community based fire and emergency service in the face of a union representing just over 1% of the CFA workforce trying to take control.

If implemented the amended Enterprise Agreement will mean the progressive dismantling of the CFA as a volunteer and community based fully integrated service.

CFA Board

CFA has issued a new Operational EBA Update (2 June 2016), explaining that the CFA Board met to review the recommendations and is seeking further advice.

In its update, the CFA Board pointed out that the recommendations are for consideration and not binding, and it remains seriously concerned about the implications.

The Operational EBA Update says CFA is concerned with parts of the proposed EBA that would affect the Chief Officer’s ability to allocate and deploy resources, include a union veto over CFA decisions, negatively impact on volunteers and BASOs, and be discriminatory.

The CFA Board is seeking further discussions with the State Government on the operational and financial impacts on CFA.

 

What you can do to support CFA and volunteers

See the Herald Sun article online – this includes an online opinion poll.

Download signs for use in your local area

         

 Note: Posters may be printed up to A2 size.

Concerned? Email or call your local MP or your local newspaper.

Talk to your VFBV State Councillors or your Brigade Delegates about taking action in your local area.

New to the EBA issue?

Keep reading for recent VFBV and CFA updates that look into why the volunteers, CFA senior managers, the CFA Board, CEO and Chief Officer, and the Minister for Emergency Services are all so concerned.

 

1 June 2016

HERALD SUN ARTICLE - VFBV'S LETTER TO THE PREMIER - POSTERS FOR VOLUNTEERS

Following the Herald Sun’s front page article today - VFBV has verified the Herald Sun’s main points and is confident that this is an accurate report of the events that took place yesterday in the Commonwealth’s industrial relations commission, called Fair Work Australia, and is cause for great concern and alarm.

As we advised on Monday, on the back of statements by the Premier and senior government Ministers who have stated that the Commission is a “fair and independent umpire”, VFBV sought leave on behalf of CFA volunteers to appear to assist the Commission understand the effects and impacts that some of the proposed industrial agreement clauses would have on CFA volunteers and their capacity to serve the community.  Despite volunteers making up 97% of CFA’s workforce, that the proposed Agreement had widespread negative effects on CFA volunteers and despite the Volunteer Charter being enacted by the Victorian Parliament as law, the Commissioner has advised us that our request to be heard on your behalf was denied.

Volunteers are now pleading with the Premier, the Cabinet and all Victorian MPs to do what the industrial umpire did not: have the decency to hear our concerns, properly consider them, and protect volunteer firefighters and the Victorian public from any negative impacts.

The CFA CEO, Chief Officer, Board, Operational Command, Volunteers and the Minister are all united against the adoption of the proposed Agreement and are all saying the same thing - the proposed agreement, even with the slight changes recommended by the industrial commissioner, will significantly impact on volunteers and their capacity to effectively serve the community as well as impact on CFA’s ability to make decisions. On any other day that would be enough.

We have requested the Premier ensure that CFA’s capacity to make timely decisions on operational and other resource allocation remains unencumbered, and to make it explicit that the UFU industrial agreement is not to override or set aside relevant Victorian legislation or to marginalize CFA volunteers or relegate them to a lesser role than paid staff.

We are fielding many calls from volunteers who are disenfranchised and some who are considering resigning. We urge you to please not make any hasty decisions. Our communities still depend on us, and we have always met that commitment with our utmost dedication. There is still time for our Victorian Cabinet Ministers to listen to us, respect the work you do and heed our message. This does not mean members should not start planning for the worst and escalating any local actions to raise concerns with MPs, local councils and other bodies. We also need you to be ready if further action is required. These are testing times and we remind members that volunteers have no quarrel with our paid firefighter’s pay and conditions, and we want those sorted quickly. Please remain respectful of each other. We are taking a principled, moral and values driven position, and these values should guide our decision making.

Today and tomorrow may set the scene for the future of CFA. Members are urged to continue emailing and writing their local Members of Parliament, especially Cabinet Ministers who may be deciding the outcome of this matter this week. You should ask how volunteer views and concerns are being considered if they have not been allowed to be properly put in the current process. You should ask if they will personally protect you and your community’s volunteer firefighters from any impacts that may retard or reduce their capacity to protect the community.

Any inclusion of anything (other than pay and conditions) that seeks to control, demoralize or disregard volunteer firefighters is just morally wrong and we need our leaders to stand up on our behalf and respect the commitment provided to us through the Volunteer Charter which states;

That the Victorian Parliament’s & CFA’s policy outcomes are to be judged against the following principles;

Is it fair?

Is it just?

Is it reasonable?

Does it discriminate against volunteers?

Is the outcome practicable and sustainable?

Is it in the best interests of the safety of the Victorian community?

We should expect no less.

 

Handy Downloads for Volunteers

Here is some additional information, and resources to assist volunteers in raising the issue:

VFBV’s Letter to Premier Daniel Andrews

Posters

       

Note: Posters may be printed up to A2 size.

27 May Update

The Fair Work Commissioner is considering final submissions on the CFA/UFU Enterprise Bargaining Agreement dispute and is expected provide potential next steps to resolve the matter soon, possibly on Monday 30 May.

CFA issued a new Operational EBA Update on Friday, 27 May 2016 - you can see that new CFA update here.

You can read CFA's 18 May Operational EBA Update - click here to download - issued 18 May 2016

Statement from CFA Board 12 May 2016:

We are writing to you today as part of our commitment to keeping you updated on the progress of the Operational EBA discussions.

We are deeply saddened by reports of deteriorating relationships between volunteers and staff in some areas.

Many volunteers have told us they do not want to get involved in genuine negotiations about pay and conditions of staff, and nor should they.

They do, however, have a right to raise concerns over potential decisions that directly impact them, and CFA is required to consult on these issues.

We once again ask all members to be tolerant of each other's views and for everybody to treat each other with appropriate respect.

At a recent Board meeting, we discussed our desire to see a resolution to the EBA discussions as soon as possible, but reconfirmed we will not negotiate on the inclusion of certain clauses being sought by the UFU.

These clauses would:
• remove or diminish the ability of the Chief Officer to allocate and deploy resources flexibly and with agility
• require agreement or provide veto to UFU over CFA management decisions
• restrict or negatively impact on volunteers and BASOs.

We do want to emphasise that we remain committed to consulting extensively with our membership on any significant changes that impact them, their safety or their terms and conditions. The position we have taken does not diminish this in any way.

The UFU presented these clauses in a draft EBA to the Victorian Government.

We believe it would be beneficial if all members covered by the proposed agreement had access to the current proposal (version 17.1) so that you are appropriately informed about the discussions, issues and impacts.

As this is a UFU document, and not CFA’s proposal, we have written to the UFU to seek their agreement to make it available to their members.

Tomorrow, we will be attending a Fair Work Commission hearing, which was requested by the UFU. We will be presenting what we can and can’t agree on.

We will continue to update you on developments.

From CFA Board

(John Peberdy, Ross Coyle, Michael Freshwater, Katherine Forrest, James Holyman, John Schurink, Michael Tudball, Samantha Hunter)

Posted on the CFA website, 4pm 12 May 2016

 

STATEMENTS FROM MINISTER GARRETT AND THE CHIEF OFFICER - 11 MAY 2016

Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett has told Nine News, “I do have grave concerns about some of what has been in various logs of claims from the UFU.”

“We want this resolved as quickly as possible but it will be on terms that look after all of our firefighters.” (Nine News, 11 May 2016)

And CFA Chief Officer Joe Buffone has issued a statement saying “there has been much debate devoted to negotiations around a new enterprise bargaining agreement” and that “there has also been misinformation that needs to be corrected.”

He says the current EBA log of claims includes clauses “that will adversely impact on volunteers and CFA’s ability to run the organisation in a way that will best serve all Victorians.”

You can read his full statement in the Weekly Times here.

 

CFA VOLUNTEERS' MOTORCADE OF SUPPORT

CFA volunteers held a motorcade of fire vehicles through the streets of Melbourne on Saturday 23rd April, 2016, to demonstrate their support for the CFA and Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett.  Fire vehicles came from all corners of the state to converge on the city.  See TV coverage here:  SBS TV News, WIN TV News Gippsland, ABC TV News

The Minister and CFA have been sidelined by the Premier, Daniel Andrews, who is reported to have done a secret personal deal with Firefighters’ union secretary, Peter Marshall which would see the Union gain significant control over CFA operations as well as achieve massive pay and allowance increases.

“The CFA and the Minister were negotiating with the union in good faith for a reasonable financial settlement for paid firefighters but would not agree to surrender proper management and operational functions or to marginalise volunteers as the Union demanded”, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria CEO Andrew Ford said.

“It has become clear to volunteers that in recent days the Premier went behind the Minister’s back and reached a deal with Peter Marshall which gives the union virtually all it wants,” he said. 

“And that includes marginalising experienced and qualified volunteer firefighters who are committed to volunteer community service and flooding the organisation with unneeded extra paid staff to replace thousands of urban volunteers without increasing public safety.

“The cost implications of the Premier’s sell-out are huge, with the fire service levy on households and business expected to significantly grow year on year for years into the future as more and more volunteers are replaced by paid employees under the union’s system.

“The name “The Marshall Plan” will have a totally new meaning.

“Where’s the money coming from? Out of our pockets of course!

“It’s ironic that after capping municipal rates and charges the government’s fire service levy, which municipal councils’ are required to send out on their rates notices, will grow like topsy.

“The public safety implications are particularly troubling.  If you undermine, deactivate and progressively push out volunteers, who will provide Victoria with a surge capacity to respond to major fires and emergencies?

“And if you are substantially reliant on paid staff be prepared to pay overtime, penalty rates, extra shift allowances, meal allowances, accommodation costs and allowances as well as the wages that will be required to have sufficient paid staff available.

“And remember they are going up by 19% under the Andrews-Marshall industrial deal.

“Daniel Andrews either hasn’t thought this through or just doesn’t care.

“Jane Garrett has demonstrated that she has thought this through, understands the issues and details and repeatedly demonstrated she does care.

“The CFA Board and its leadership, including CEO Lucinda Nolan and Chief Fire Officer Joe Buffone know what’s at stake in respect of cost and operational capacity to keep Victorian’s safe.

“That’s why volunteers are mobilising to support Minister Jane Garrett and the CFA and its leadership.”

For all inquiries ring the VFBV office on 9802 0501.

Published in VFBV News

CALLING OUT TO ALL VOLUNTEERS AGED 18 – 35 WHO WANT TO BE INVOLVED AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE

VFBV have recognised the need to engage with and improve our connection to our young volunteers.

As a result, VFBV are in the process of establishing the VFBV Youth Network.

VFBV is looking for volunteers aged 18 to 35 to join and represent younger volunteers in each District.

By joining your District’s VFBV Youth Panel, you can give young volunteers a greater say in VFBV at every level, build your skills as a volunteer delegate and prepare yourself for future VFBV and CFA leadership roles.

Each District’s VFBV Youth Panel will work with the VFBV District Council and a young delegate will represent their district at the state-level Youth Advisory Committee, which will work with VFBV’s State Council.

You won’t be alone, you will be supported in each District, by experienced Champions who will guide you along the way and act as a connection to your District Council.

Younger volunteers deserve a stronger voice and VFBV will need experienced representatives in the years to come – we’d like you to consider taking up the challenge.

We will keep you posted online at www.vfbv.com.au and in future editions of Firewise however, if you have any questions, please call:-

Christine Fryer

VFBV Youth Engagement Officer

(03) 9886 1141

 

Published in VFBV News
Friday, 01 April 2016 00:00

CFA CEO Update: new hotline for members

By: Lucinda Nolan

Our workplace must be one free from bullying, harassment and discrimination.

And if you do experience any of these types of unreasonable behaviour, we want you to feel safe to report it.

If you believe you are experiencing bullying or harassment, you can now report this through our dedicated and independent hotline.

The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be managed by an independent external team.

The hotline number is 1800 795 075.

All callers will be treated with dignity and respect – there will be no judgement about the information they are providing. Each call will be managed confidentially, with the consent of the caller helping to determine the way the report is best managed.

These complaints will then be referred to an external consultant who is a specialist in complaint and issues resolution. They will follow up with the caller within 72 hours of the initial complaint, and will assist in managing the case until a resolution is reached. The type of resolution chosen will vary depending on the nature of the complaint.

Complaints can also continue to be made directly to your direct manager.

This hotline is in addition to the range of support services and resources already available to help members manage their mental health and deal with difficulties when they arise. Information about these services can be found here.

We made the commitment to introduce the hotline following the release of the independent Fire Services Review.

In the past 12 months, 24 complaints of harassment and bullying in CFA have been formally lodged.

This is a relatively small number in an organisation of 57,000 but we are concerned that there may be under reporting of these issues.

As I have said before, I don’t believe harassment and bullying are widespread in CFA, but any type of this behaviour will not be tolerated.

I want to reiterate again that changing our culture will not be solved alone by initiatives and strategies. We all need to do our part.

Published in CFA News
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 00:00

AFSM NOMINATIONS FOR 2017

Nominations are open for the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) to be awarded on Australia Day in 2017, so it’s time to think about the long serving volunteers around you, the ones you most admire for their distinguished service.

See below to download the nomination form, nomination guidelines and nominator’s guide.

Nominations must be received by no later than 1 May, 2016.

The Australian Fire Service Medal recognises distinguished service by members of Australian fire services. It is awarded to paid and volunteer members.

All nominations are strictly confidential and the information provided will be used only to assist in considering the merits of the nomination. The person being nominated should not be approached for information or advised of his or her nomination at any stage.

Should you have any questions please contact CFA Awards Secretariat via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone to 1800 232 636.

Published in VFBV News
Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - HR, Welfare & OH&S

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 29/11/2015)

ROLE OF GROUP The committee was advised that the new Chief Officer has requested that the Role of Group publication that was due to be distributed to brigades be put on hold whilst he conducts a review. The committee has been provided with a much condensed version for feedback. Whilst members will no doubt be disappointed with yet another delay, the committee will work with the new Chief Officer to try and resolve the current impasse affecting this long delayed project.

SECTOR COMMANDER COURSE

The Sector Commander course was developed by the IMTTP team and originally released for delivery in 2014. The course was written with the assumption that a student undertaking the course has no prior knowledge of the subject matter. Feedback from students is that the course is quite lengthy and duplicates material that is covered in earlier courses such as crew leader. Exacerbating the problem, there were restrictive pre-requisites to undertake the course. CFA has decided to conduct a full review of the course, with the State Incident Management Training Delivery Project Steering Committee to oversee the course review.

The committee has highlighted to CFA that the course was originally designed to be delivered in unique modules, yet all CFA delivery to date has been to deliver all modules consecutively which has frustrated students, and led to courses running over consecutive 3 or 4 full weekends, causing understandable member backlash. CFA has agreed to rework and rewrite the course, with the intent to break the course into four distinct modules, with duplication to be removed. This will assist members who may already hold existing units that can be mapped to parts of the new course and allow members to undertake just those parts they do not currently hold. A reworked assessment will ensure all members exit the course with standardized learning outcomes. It is anticipated that this may reduce the Sector Commander course to one night and 2 days. Piloting of the new course is anticipated early in 2016.

FATIGUE MANAGEMENT

The Committee has for some time been reporting the District and Regional variances in how fatigue management is implemented, especially for larger incidents. Examples of two neighbouring districts implementing completely different fatigue guidelines for strike teams dispatched to the same job provided a case study of the issue. The Committee has requested state-wide guidelines be developed and communicated to the field which amongst other things outline crew changeovers, appropriate rest periods between deployments and long haul strike team travel arrangements, including the use of coaches and/or fresh drivers to return appliances to their home locations.

VOLUNTEER UTILISATION IN IMTs

The committee has reinforced the need for proactive and deliberate action to be taken to encourage, and strengthen the use of volunteers in IMTs. The critical importance of planning and the effects of poor or last minute planning on volunteer utilisation are well known and the committee has requested that the Chief Officer lead this work amongst the agencies this fire season. The view amongst some senior leaders over previous seasons has been that there is very little volunteer interest, yet discussions with the field constantly highlight not only high interest, but that many volunteers were either unaware of any requests or only requested on extremely short notice (sometimes with less than four hours’ notice) which makes it difficult for them to arrange availability with their employer. Short notice also ignores that many volunteers qualified in IMT roles will commit to other Brigade or District roles in the absence of any request for their services in IMT roles. The committee has requested a robust system be developed to ensure transparency and accountability is maintained in requests for resources, including sufficient planning and flexibility that supports volunteer participation.

Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - Training

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 22/11/2015)

RECOGNITION OF MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS, PARAMEDICS & NURSES

The committee has for a number of years been pursuing the recognition of volunteer members who are current medical practitioners, paramedics and nurses and hold the relevant qualifications. In the past, CFA has been unable to accept these qualifications and provide credit for national units without provision of an adequate evidence portfolio and assessment to ensure CFA meets its Registered Training Organisation requirements. Qualifications for these members has been obtained through the higher education sector and are subject to a different accreditation process that usually involves either central or self-accreditation. The medical practitioner, paramedic and nursing qualifications were not developed, validated or assessed against agreed vocational education and training standards which are required for the awarding of CFA’s national competencies. This has resulted in these highly qualified and experienced members having to regularly re-sit basic first aid courses in order for their skills to be recognised and approved by CFA.

A proposed solution has now been developed that will involve the creation and issuing of a new enterprise (CFA) competency (not a nationally recognized competency unit) which will be called “Eligible to provide first aid in the workplace”. This will be used to record those members who have evidence of formal and current qualifications as a medical practitioner, paramedic or nurse. This new enterprise competency can then be considered as satisfying the CFA skills profile requirements for first aid for those members. Consultation with key stakeholders has now commenced seeking their support prior to official approval being sought. Members will be kept updated on progress.

BROWN COAL MINE FIREFIGHTING TRAINING

The Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry made recommendations for the introduction of critical safety concepts specific to the risks presented by brown coal mine firefighting. CFA have been leading the development of delivery and assessment materials that further enhance and support CFA’s capability and capacity to respond to fires within Victorian coal mines. These materials have been developed in collaboration with the MFB and will be shared with other fire agencies to meet their specific training needs. The delivery and assessment materials have been drafted and will shortly be ready for piloting. The draft program consists of six modules consisting of; About the coal mine industry, Coal fire behaviour & development, Extinguishing methods, Importance of safety, Maintaining situation awareness and Command & control. A pilot is being planned for early next year, with the aim being to evaluate the content and activities and then confirm the time required for each session. At the end of the pilot final refinements will be made and will then be submitted to the Chief Officer for approval

CFA F&EM TRAINING STRATEGY SURVEY 2015 RESULTS

The Committee is reviewing the results from this year’s Training Strategy Survey results. Whilst there has been a slight improvement overall when compared to the 13/14 results, the results clearly identify access to training as the single biggest frustration and area of complaint amongst members. In the worst performing question across the whole survey, over 51% of respondents either strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement “The number of training programs and resources available in their Districts is fair and reasonable”. There were very high dissatisfaction levels with the statement; “training is available in locations that are easy to participate” with dissatisfaction surging 10% over the previous year to now 35% dissatisfaction, with courses seen as too long, or located too far away with the closure of Fiskville being a significant contributor. Only 44% of members agreed that “training is available at times that are easy to participate in.” The committee has urged CFA to develop a full action plan across all key result areas that will drive improvement and performance. The committee was pleased to hear that improving the training experience for members is new CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan’s top priority for the coming year. The Committee stands ready to assist.

Published in Training Committee

Issue 14: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 21/11/2015)

FIRE STATION MODIFICATIONS Responding to feedback from Brigades contemplating minor works, alterations or additions to fire stations through the VESEP program, the committee has endorsed a new registration process that will now be available year round & apply to all proposed works up to the value of $75,000. (Or over if the Brigade proposes to fully fund the initiative) Due to the long lead times to get accurate quotes and approvals, Brigades can now register and plan for minor works well before they apply for a potential grant. The registration process involves the Brigade providing a brief description of the proposed works, an estimate of the cost, funding source and nomination of a Brigade contact. CFA Land & Building will then work with the Brigade to undertake an initial desk top review of the proposed scope of works, undertake a site inspection where required, and a cost assessment prior to the Brigade seeking local approval to proceed. Brigades wishing to register a project or simply seek assistance in planning a project can contact CFA’s Bruce Rowley who is the VESEP Minor Works Project Manager on (03) 5833 2425 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Start planning for next year’s VESEP round now!

ULTRA - LIGHT & SLIP-ON CREW PROTECTION SYSTEMS

The committee continues to work on investigating efficient and effective crew protection systems for CFA’s light vehicles. There are over 150 ultra-light tankers and slip-ons vehicles that were not covered under the crew protection system retrofit program due to a lack of an appropriate protection system for small vehicles. Therefore, crews of these appliances have very limited protection against radiant heat and direct flame contact in the event of a burn-over. Two new products are now being evaluated which includes a Polymer Gel System and a Compressed Air Foam System. Both products have shown very promising early signs, with experimental testing during field burn-overs in moderate bushfire intensity conditions planned for early Autumn 2016. The committee will continue to update members on developments.

15/16 FINANCIAL YEAR FLEET REPLACEMENT PROGRAM UPDATE

The 15/16 Fleet Capital Replacement Program is on target, with all production lines well progressed and on target for completion this financial year. (Base, VESEP & Special) This year’s program is delivering; 40 Heavy Tankers, 28 Medium Tankers, 12 Medium Pumpers, 10 Light Tankers, 7 Ultra-light Tankers, 3 BigFills, 2 Replacement Tech Rescue Cab Chassis, 2 prototype Bulk Water carriers, 1 Medium Rescue, 1 Prototype BA Van, and 1 G Wagon (DELWP).

COLD CLIMATE JACKET PROGRESS

Development on the Cold Climate jackets is well progressed, with results from the state-wide field evaluation being considered by the committee.

84 evaluation jackets were sent out (4 per CFA District) for evaluation. Over 100 individual evaluation responses has been received and studied, with feedback overwhelmingly positive. The committee has endorsed the jackets now progressing to Stage 1 implementation, with 2 minor changes made to the specification.

Some feedback indicated that there was some unwanted tightness in the sleeves. The specifications have now been updated to provide a more relaxed fit in the sleeves. There was also considerable feedback that the jackets were sometimes mistaken for the green nomex structural jackets, so orange reflective tape has now been added to the jacket to make it visually easier to identify these as cold climate jackets.

The committee has endorsed the revised specifications with the jacket now to proceed to tender.

Full details of the Stage 1 implementation will be made public in early 2016, with delivery and rollout expected to be completed by June 2016.

Stage 1 of this program is being funded through a successful joint CFA/VFBV State Initiative through the 2015 VESEP program and is being conducted in collaboration with the State PPE & C Consultative Committee.

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 28/11/2015)

LISTENING SETS A reminder that Brigades & Groups only have a few weeks left to submit their Tier 1 and Tier 2 orders. Orders are due by January 15, 2016 at the latest. Any scanners left over after this time will be sold. Order forms and advertising of the subsidy program commenced on the 16th October, giving brigades over 90 days to lodge their orders.

As at writing, over 800 brigades and 70 groups have placed their Tier 1 & 2 orders, representing orders for almost 8,000 digital scanners. Under the Tier 1 program, every Brigade is entitled to a minimum of 8 guaranteed units at the subsidized price. On average, Brigades are ordering 3.5 units on their Tier 1 orders, with Groups on average taking up 1 of their guaranteed minimum of 2 units.

VFBV is providing the logistical and administrative support for the ordering process and is currently processing orders and forwarding to CFA for dispatch within 24 hours of receiving your brigade/group orders.

PAGER AND DIGITAL COMMS

The committee has for some time been reporting concerns regarding diminished pager and radio reception issues amongst new fire station builds. Due to the current design and construction, there is an increasing incidence of a Faraday cage phenomenon. A Faraday cage or shield is essentially an enclosure formed by conductive material that is used to block electric fields. It is commonly used to protect sensitive equipment from radio frequency interference etc and as many of our stations are essentially large metal boxes – this unintended effect is leaving some Brigades being unable to receive any pager messages when members are inside the station. CFA representatives have raised the issue with CFA Building and Property requesting design modifications that will help minimize the problem. Comms is currently investigating technological solutions to existing stations that are impacted by this problem, with the committee being briefed on two solutions currently being explored. Members should also be aware, that the committee is investigating some anecdotal evidence that this Faraday cage phenomenon may also be occurring under certain conditions when members are inside vehicles, including fire trucks. A related but similar issue is being explored with a report of decreased performance of a portable radio when operating within the cabin, and in cases where all the windows are tinted (with some window types being metalized.) In one example, portable reception was restored by simply opening the appliance’s windows. This is a good example of the importance of Brigades using observation reports to report issues which allow trends and issues to be identified.

NEW FLEXIBILITY IN PRE DETERMINED STRIKE TEAM DISPATCH

CFA and ESTA have finalized additional flexibility to cater for pre-determined strike team dispatching. Last year the committee raised concerns about some Districts reverting to District wide paging of all Brigades to activate strike teams under the mistaken belief it was not possible to customize CAD rules. This can have a significant impact on members across an entire district being unnecessarily woken during the night for the dispatch of strike teams that having nothing to do with them.

Regional and District Duty Officers now have an improved ability to advise ESTA of day by day strike team configuration, including individual appliances and Brigades, which also caters for cross crewing etc so paging of strike teams can be isolated to only those Brigades and personnel that need to be notified. All OM’s and OO’s have been advised of the new system via CFA’s Operational Communications department.

Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - Community Safety

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 28/11/2015)

FIRE SAFETY PLEDGE The committee discussed the resounding success of the inaugural Fire Safety Pledge. The Pledge ran for 8 weeks from October 8th to December 3rd. Between 1000 and 1500 people visited the webpage each day. Over the course of the campaign, almost 13,000 Victorians had visited the site and chosen to take the pledge. This was an innovative approach to enabling the community to commit to improved personal fire safety. As part of the pledge, there was a Brigade competition element where people taking the pledge could nominate the Brigade they wished to support, therefore creating a connection between them and their Brigade. Point Cook, Parwan and Dartmouth have taken out the Brigade prizes. The committee supports this initiative and the running of the fire safety pledge in coming years.

CFA IS A HIGHLY TRUSTED & RESPECTED EMERGENCY SERVICE

The results from this year’s market research is in, with 94% of respondents considering CFA to be a highly trusted and respected emergency service. In its second year, this year’s quantitative research was conducted by computer assisted telephone interviewing which was completed by 2,503 Victorians aged 18 and above, with minimum quotas based on ABS 2011 figures on age and gender obtained, providing a very robust sample size. The survey is designed to address several key research questions including; what people feel are the most important CFA services, what are people’s expectations of CFA and CFA key services and what are people’s perceptions of current service delivery. In total, 14 service areas were measured, and pleasingly all were seen as performing well, with the top ranked being fighting bushfires and grassfires (95%) and fighting house and building fires (92%). Reinforcing the high impact CFA’s volunteer and community based model has on its community, 82% of respondents rated they had a high level of ‘connectedness’ with CFA.

WINDROWS There was robust discussion from the committee around the need for better education of property owners who burn off on their properties with stubble burns etc. but also those who construct and burn windrows. The discussion included the inherent problems of long duration burns and the inability of many property owners to plan for or mitigate these long burns when fire danger ratings change from day to day. Alarmingly, many property owners are not aware of the substantial penalties which exist under the Summary Offences Act, which could apply to residents whose fires do not comply with their permit. Fines of as much as $18,000 can be issued and there are reports of police showing ‘zero’ tolerance in some areas. The committee has stressed the need for property owners to be advised of the risks and assisted/supported to administer their burns safely and legally to avoid fines. The committee suggested an awareness campaign be launched to address these and other issues with a request for a new “Think Before you Burn” brochure. The committee has agreed to further workshop these ideas at its April 2016 meeting, and encourages members to discuss their concerns or suggestions with VFBV District Councils so it can be passed onto committee members for consideration.

TYRE STOCKPILING

In 2012-13 almost 50,000 tonnes of waste tyres (around six million car tyres) were stockpiled or dumped in Victoria. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has introduced new legal requirements for storing waste tyres. Existing and new sites that store more than 40 tonnes (or 5,000 equivalent passenger units (EPU) of whole tyres) at any time, need an EPA works approval before they are built or modified, as well as an EPA licence to operate. Be aware that 5,000 EPU represents about 5,000 car tyres, 10,000 motorcycle tyres, 1,000 truck tyres or a mix of tyres that equates to 5,000 EPU. If your Brigade turns out to an incident at a site that is stockpiling more than 5,000 (EPU) please ensure the incident is reported through FIRS and the chain of command. If Brigades have identified stockpiling sites or require more information, contact Matt Allen (Dangerous Goods Unit) on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 5240 2713.

Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - Volunteerism

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 22/11/2015)

CFA VOLUNTEERISM STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION The Committee reviewed CFA’s implementation progress of the Volunteer Strategy across CFA. The new Volunteer Support Model was presented, which sees Regional BASOs being appointed to implement the programs of the Volunteer Support Program. VFBV highlighted the importance of the original BASO program and the need to continue their direct support of Brigades, reconfirming their critical importance as one of the most trusted and respected resources CFA can provide to assist and support Brigades with their ever increasing administrative and logistical workloads.

The new Regional BASOs have been employed full time and are ongoing in these roles providing much needed stability. The Committee will be continuing to watch the implementation of the Regional BASOs and asks Brigades to provide feedback on the programs and ensure that direct support to Brigades is not only maintained but enhanced & increased.

The Leadership and Management Development Program for Volunteers framework has been developed and presented to the committee. This program is a key priority of the Volunteer Strategy and we look forward to this being developed across the state for the benefit of our leaders and brigades.

LA TROBE UNIVERSITY ASPIRE EARLY ADMISSIONS PROGRAM

CFA have partnered with the La Trobe University Aspire program, which provides year 12 students who are also CFA volunteers with priority access to their chosen course at La Trobe. This includes being offered a place prior to exams, acceptance of a lower ATAR score, access to on campus accommodation, participation in the Enrichment Program and capped fees. This is a great opportunity for our younger members and please ensure that members intending to going to university know of this opportunity, more information can be found at

http://www.latrobe.edu.au/study/aspire

JUNIOR MEMBER SERVICE RECOGNITION The committee has been asked to look into the possibility of Junior Members having their service recorded to be included in their overall service for the awarding of CFA Service Awards. The committee has been advised by CFA that there are no barriers for this to occur. The next step will be to gain feedback from members across CFA as to whether their service should be included. The survey commenced in December and closes 29 February 2016. Members are encouraged to complete the survey online at

or a hard copy can be obtained from CFA. http://cfa.engagementhq.com/

Recognising Junior Service in a members overall service will only apply to the awarding of CFA Service Awards and not external awards i.e. National Medal etc.

JUNIOR MEMBER ID CARDS

A reminder that Junior Member ID cards are available. So far, since the start of the program only

35% of Juniors across CFA have obtained an ID.

Brigades are encouraged to obtain ID cards for their Junior Members and if there are any issues with the cards or system, please feed back the information.

Brigades can use Brigades Online to order individual cards.

BUSHFIRE NATIONAL HAZARDS CRC – VOLUNTEER RESEARCH

The committee is monitoring relevant research from the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative

Research Centre. Two topics of particular interest are ‘Out of Uniform – Building resilience through non - traditional emergency volunteering’ and ‘Improving the retention and engagement of volunteers in emergency service agencies’. Updates will be provided as the projects develop as it is hoped this kind of research supports & contributes to build long - term volunteer sustainability.

Published in Volunteerism Committee
Friday, 05 February 2016 00:00

2 Minute Briefing - Operations

Issue 15: December 2015

Quick snapshot of the priority issues and actions worked through at the most recent Joint Committee meeting between CFA and VFBV. (Meeting held 29/11/2015)

ROLE OF GROUP The committee was advised that the new Chief Officer has requested that the Role of Group publication that was due to be distributed to brigades be put on hold whilst he conducts a review. The committee has been provided with a much condensed version for feedback. Whilst members will no doubt be disappointed with yet another delay, the committee will work with the new Chief Officer to try and resolve the current impasse affecting this long delayed project.

SECTOR COMMANDER COURSE

The Sector Commander course was developed by the IMTTP team and originally released for delivery in 2014. The course was written with the assumption that a student undertaking the course has no prior knowledge of the subject matter. Feedback from students is that the course is quite lengthy and duplicates material that is covered in earlier courses such as crew leader. Exacerbating the problem, there were restrictive pre-requisites to undertake the course. CFA has decided to conduct a full review of the course, with the State Incident Management Training Delivery Project Steering Committee to oversee the course review.

The committee has highlighted to CFA that the course was originally designed to be delivered in unique modules, yet all CFA delivery to date has been to deliver all modules consecutively which has frustrated students, and led to courses running over consecutive 3 or 4 full weekends, causing understandable member backlash. CFA has agreed to rework and rewrite the course, with the intent to break the course into four distinct modules, with duplication to be removed. This will assist members who may already hold existing units that can be mapped to parts of the new course and allow members to undertake just those parts they do not currently hold. A reworked assessment will ensure all members exit the course with standardized learning outcomes. It is anticipated that this may reduce the Sector Commander course to one night and 2 days. Piloting of the new course is anticipated early in 2016.

FATIGUE MANAGEMENT

The Committee has for some time been reporting the District and Regional variances in how fatigue management is implemented, especially for larger incidents. Examples of two neighbouring districts implementing completely different fatigue guidelines for strike teams dispatched to the same job provided a case study of the issue. The Committee has requested state-wide guidelines be developed and communicated to the field which amongst other things outline crew changeovers, appropriate rest periods between deployments and long haul strike team travel arrangements, including the use of coaches and/or fresh drivers to return appliances to their home locations.

VOLUNTEER UTILISATION IN IMTs

The committee has reinforced the need for proactive and deliberate action to be taken to encourage, and strengthen the use of volunteers in IMTs. The critical importance of planning and the effects of poor or last minute planning on volunteer utilisation are well known and the committee has requested that the Chief Officer lead this work amongst the agencies this fire season. The view amongst some senior leaders over previous seasons has been that there is very little volunteer interest, yet discussions with the field constantly highlight not only high interest, but that many volunteers were either unaware of any requests or only requested on extremely short notice (sometimes with less than four hours’ notice) which makes it difficult for them to arrange availability with their employer. Short notice also ignores that many volunteers qualified in IMT roles will commit to other Brigade or District roles in the absence of any request for their services in IMT roles. The committee has requested a robust system be developed to ensure transparency and accountability is maintained in requests for resources, including sufficient planning and flexibility that supports volunteer participation.

Published in Operations Committee
Monday, 14 December 2015 00:00

CFA Wellbeing Survey

CFA’s 2015 Wellbeing Research Survey closes at midnight this Sunday, 20 December.

The survey is anonymous, takes about 15 minutes to complete and is designed to help CFA improve its mental health and wellbeing services for all members.

If you have questions about the survey or would like a paper based version of it, please contact CFA’s wellbeing intake line on (03) 9262 8409.

To take the survey online, click on this link

For more information about CFA’s support services, go to

http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/mentalhealth

Published in CFA News

The 2015 CFA Wellbeing Research Survey is now under way.

The survey is open to all CFA members and can be completed online at https://secure.insyncsurveys.com.au/surveys/CFAWellbeingResearch2015/ up until 20 December this year.

The survey only takes about 15 minutes to complete and your feedback will help to improve CFA’s mental health and wellbeing services for all members.

Psychological health and safety is a key part of CFA’s new ‘Safety’ value.  The 2015 wellbeing survey aims to support mental health and wellbeing in CFA thereby supporting Safety for all our members.

Responses to the survey will remain anonymous.

For more information or if you would like a paper based version of the survey, please contact CFA’s wellbeing intake line on (03) 9262 8409.

Published in CFA News
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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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