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The State Government has responded to the Fiskville Inquiry’s final report, endorsing all of the recommendations, either fully or in part - download the State Government response here or download the Fiskville Inquiry Final Report here.

VFBV now hopes it will be the trigger for urgent Government and CFA action on replacing Fiskville’s vital training capacity, ensuring properly monitored water quality standards for all CFA training sites, and maintaining ongoing support to all of those affected by exposure at the Fiskville site.

The announcement follows years of work from VFBV since the issue was first raised in the media in December 2011.   VFBV has consistently called for urgent remedial action at the site, independent, expert monitoring, ongoing support for everyone affected, and the urgent replacement of Fiskville’s lost training capacity. 

The closure of the site came in 2015 after the surprising discovery that water quality problems were persisting in spite of the reassurances of WorkSafe, the EPA, technical experts and CFA.

The State Government’s response to the Fiskville Inquiry is not the end of the issue, but a cue for action to resolve the problems left in Fiskville’s wake.

Published in HomePage Featured
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 00:00

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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
Saturday, 19 September 2015 00:00

Fiskville Inquiry Update

The Fiskville inquiry has been extended until 31 March 2016, and a number of additional transcripts from its hearings have just been added to its website (see below).

The Committee’s public hearings will continue through until the end of the year, and will include representatives of CFA, the EPA and WorkSafe.

The hearings will start on Monday 19 October and run until early December.

The Committee has announced it will start by hearing from key experts with knowledge about toxic chemicals and hazardous materials to increase our understanding of the health effects of the pollutants people at Fiskville have been exposed to and their effects on the environment.

You can read transcripts of the Committee’s hearings here, including VFBV CEO Andrew Ford’s evidence to the Committee and newly added transcripts from Ballan Fire Brigade and staff members from Fiskville.

You can see VFBV’s full written submission here.

Click here for the Committee’s website.

 

Published in VFBV News
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 00:00

Fiskville Inquiry - Interim Report Released

Just released: The Interim Report from the Parliamentary Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville is available for download below

NOTES FROM THE STATE COUNCIL DISCUSSION BEFORE VFBV’S PRESENTATION TO THE PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY ON 15 JUNE 2015

The Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville has the potential to affect far more than the future of the Fiskville site.

VFBV has provided a written submission and more than an hour of evidence and we have been invited to provide additional information in a second written submission.

The issues to be presented to the Parliamentary Committee were workshopped at the VFBV State Council on 13 June. The State Council determined that the key points to be presented to the Inquiry hearing were;

The safety of our members and support to any members who have been exposed in the past is paramount and should remain the primary concern.

The Committee must ensure the focus remains on safety of our members and support to any members, whether exposed in the past during training or at fire incidents, or members who may be exposed in the future.

Firefighters, paid and volunteer alike, need access to the best possible training and the most real-to-life training. If Fiskville operations are to be closed for rectification works, scaled back or ceased altogether, then the resulting gap in Victoria’s training capacity must be fixed immediately.

If this requires funding for improvements, alternative interim training facilities, or new facilities, then this must not only be a recommendation of the Committee it must also be backed by a firm funding commitment from all sides of politics.

Just as being safe whilst training is paramount, there is a huge risk to firefighters when they are confronted with real life situations if they haven’t had access to appropriate real-to-life training.

The Inquiry process must work to establish a level of confidence amongst firefighters, the community, the Government and the firefighters’ representatives, about the facts. There has been a lot of discussion of what is or isn’t safe, and what can or can’t be fixed. Our members need the Committee to ensure the facts are on the table, that the opinions and assessments of the independent experts are known, and the analysis, decisions and regime going forward are transparent and beyond partiality or self-interest groups.

Having spoken with volunteers across Victoria, we believe it is of utmost importance that the Inquiry must unbundle the issues;

  • Past versus present
  • Which problems have ceased or been fixed
  • Which current problems can be fixed
  • Which current problems require further solutions or warrant cessation of use
  • If there is a need for cessation of use;

o   Is it for all uses

o   Is it forever

o   Is it until the results of the remaining independent expert examination

Decisions about the future must also represent a sensible use of public money; funds already invested in the site, money that must be spent regardless of whether Fiskville continues to operate or not, and the cost of new facilities or new water treatment regimes. Compromising safety is unacceptable; compromising access to training is unacceptable; and any waste of scarce funding is likely to be met with equally severe criticism.

The importance of the real-to-life training undertaken at Fiskville over the years cannot be overstated; not just hot fire training but the full range of state level and specialised skills in incident management, incident leadership, operational decision making and real-to-life operational exercises.

Much of this requires multi-day and live in courses. The live-in experience and relationship building experiences are fundamental to the preparation required for firefighters to battle major emergencies.

Also of vital importance is access; the availability of training at a time and place, and in a format that suits members. We must fill the gap in local and state level training capacity left by any cessation at Fiskville, including in the interim until permanent solutions can be put in place. And while there is discussion of fixing Fiskville, we must also stress the importance of investment in training not just at Fiskville but at all CFA training facilities, and in the context of growing demand in future.

It is important that the Fiskville Inquiry gives careful consideration to the feasibility and cost effectiveness of all options, with no compromise on safety.

From the beginning, volunteers have asked for expert, independent, transparent and accountable analysis of decisions, and the Parliamentary Committee’s Fiskville Inquiry gives us the opportunity to ensure decisions, messages and treatment are based on facts, established independently by experts, in a properly transparent process.

It is also important that the Parliamentary Committee gives our members clarity, based on expert and independent analysis and facts, about the issues surrounding PFCs, PFOS and what is necessary to ensure safe water quality standards.

It is important to set clear standards and gain the support of Government and sufficient funding to establish this level of treatment and controls to ensure the cost of training, just as it shouldn’t jeopardise the safety of trainees, doesn’t jeopardise the accessibility of state of the art training. This may require a link to the full site audit currently underway before any final decisions – particularly any decisions along the lines of a permanent closure of Fiskville.

Fiskville is, of course, just a part of the big picture on training and maintaining the skills of our volunteer-based CFA and of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its members, both paid and volunteer, and VFBV is alarmed at the continued delay in the introduction of presumptive cancer compensation legislation for Victoria’s firefighters.

Moving forward, we need;

  • Independent assurance of safety, based on facts
  • Informed decisions on any options for rehabilitating, fixing and reopening Fiskville
  • Protection of firefighters, not just during training
  • Empowerment and support to CFA to address training based on need, not capped artificially based on budget
  • Removing the rumour, speculation and uncertainty, and making decisions on independent, expert analysis of the facts

Ends….

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

Jones Inquiry (2011)

Updated: 11 August 2015

The Independent Inquiry into Effect of Arrangements on Country Fire Authority Volunteers, led by retired County Court Judge, the Honourable David Jones, was launched in 2011.

VFBV successfully called for the Inquiry to conduct sessions in regional areas and lodged a detailed submission on behalf of volunteers.

Our key messages were that;

  • the volunteer-based service model is vital for Victoria;
  • CFA’s integrated approach must continue;
  • the community needs to be educated about the professionalism, capacity and performance of volunteers;
  • the right CFA culture, leadership and human resource management arrangements are key;
  • there must be acceptance that volunteers are the CFA and must be genuinely engaged in decision making; and
  • VFBV’s role must be respected and supported.

Shortly before reporting to the State Government, Judge Jones told volunteers at the VFBV Open Forum that his report focused on positive moves to maintain the long term sustainability of the current model of CFA. He said VFBV, as the volunteers’ association, is of fundamental importance to that sustainability.

Released not long afterwards, the Jones Inquiry’s report pointed to the need for a step change in the leadership approach and culture of CFA, much greater transparency in decision making and consultation with volunteers – key ingredients for a more effective volunteer-based fire and emergency service.

VFBV called for a clear implementation plan for the required improvements, and wanted to be involved in the development and monitoring of its progress.

The independent Inquiry’s findings validated the major concerns that volunteers had raised repeatedly over recent years.

The report called for more easily accessible training for CFA volunteers, proper transparency in CFA’s decision making, genuine consultation and full utilisation of qualified, experienced volunteers, from the front line to instructors and specialist roles and the top level incident management roles.

It also called for recognition of the training and experience of volunteers when they apply for employment as full time firefighters or staff with CFA, and for the removal of barriers to administrative support to volunteer brigades.

CFA published its Jones Inquiry implementation plan in December 2012, but through the following year VFBV expressed concerns about slow progress, and in December 2013 CFA commissioned an internal review, which led to a revision of the March 2014 progress report and eventually CFA’s project management structure, to ensure better attention to the actions.

See below to download a copy of the Jones Report.

VFBV submitted a range of documents to the Jones Inquiry, including our submissions to the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, click here to see those documents.

 

Published in Inquries
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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