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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. 

Read 15116 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 08:45
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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