Back our CFA volunteers | May 03, 2016

Country Fire Authority enterprise bargaining agreement

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) — My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Emergency Services, the Honourable Jane Garrett, and the action I seek from the minister is that she meet with the Gippsland delegation of the Country Fire Authority (CFA) to express her support for the CFA remaining autonomous and independent as an entity.

As a member of The Nationals I support the work of all firefighters, both career and volunteer. I respect the work done by career firefighters, and I am not against people receiving decent wages and decent working conditions. However, the CFA volunteers have long been held in the highest regard by our communities for their professionalism, dedication and selfless contribution to society, and they deserve to remain part of an independent entity. It is the world's largest volunteer emergency services organisation with 60 000 volunteers and 1180 brigades. Victoria's CFA is the backbone of our small rural communities. It is comprised of men and women who give their own time and use their individual expertise as well as their professional training to protect our lives and our property.

Part of the proposed enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) contains a clause where the veto occurs. It is called the veto committee, and it vetos CFA operations, including equipment, vehicle and clothing issued by the CFA. This goes against the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 which states that all brigades shall be under the order and control of the chief officer. Taking control away from the CFA will crush the organisation and deter volunteers. These changes have been made so that Mr Andrews can pay back favours done for him during the election. Many of my constituents who volunteer their time have come to me, and I will quote from a couple of them:

As a CFA volunteer of 10 years I would like to add my voice to the recent action taken by so many volunteers statewide in asking you to support our CFA volunteers in the upcoming EBA decision. Volunteers devote their time and effort to supporting and protecting their community, and many of the UFUs demands threaten the autonomy and efficacy in which we can continue to do this job.

Another constituent writes:

I am a proud volunteer firefighter with … 40 years experience. I have attended over 2000 incidents in my volunteer career and I know what the CFA is.

The UFU should have no expectations that they can override the CFA board, the CEO, the chief officer or operational, resourcing or equipment decisions. Their EBA should not include anything that directly or even indirectly discriminates against volunteers or prevents the CFA from effectively supporting or deploying volunteers.

The message is clear. I ask the minister to come and meet with the Gippsland delegation to show her support.


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