The Andrews Government is breaking the hearts and backs of stalwart CFA volunteers as it rams through divisive changes to the state’s firefighting services.
That’s the warning from Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), the peak body that represents volunteer firefighters ahead of changes on Wednesday.
In a strongly worded email to volunteers earlier this month, VFBV chief executive Adam Barnett said the Andrews Government had broken its promises to volunteers.
“We have worked incredibly hard to honour our commitment to good faith discussions, and resisted provocation after provocation,” Mr Barnett said.
“For several months now we have been escalating our growing concerns and disappointment, all of which have been met by a wall of silence or indifference.”
These concerns include the Andrews Government’s blatant disregard for legislation which requires it to consult volunteers over any changes which impact them.
Volunteers have also been shocked to discover the United Firefighters Union (UFU) has the ultimate say over who the 229 assistant chief and commanders seconded to run the CFA will be. Secondees will also wear Fire Rescue Victoria uniforms, damaging the CFA’s culture and identity.
And with just days to go, volunteers still haven’t seen or been consulted on any joint operating procedures or joint agency arrangements.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath has been listening to CFA volunteers to understand their concerns about the changes.
“From this coming Wednesday (1 July 2020), the CFA as we know it will be dead,” said Ms Bath.
“The CFA will not be the standalone volunteer organisation the Andrews Government promised.
“Daniel Andrews has arrogantly handed control of the CFA to the UFU, including staffing and the allocation of resources.
Over the weekend it emerged that the UFU has asked Labor to fund another 600 paid firefighters, which shows what’s really at the heart of the Andrews Government’s decision to smash up the CFA.
Ms Bath said some volunteers told her this was Daniel Andrews final betrayal and they no longer had the strength to fight.
“Volunteers have told me not to be surprised if many walk away from the CFA,” said Ms Bath.
“There is deep concern that as skilled CFA staff retire, the secondee FRV staff will have no affiliation or connection to CFA and the service will suffer enormously as a result,” said Ms Bath.
“These are the same men and women who put their lives on the line through the worst of our summer’s bushfires to protect our Gippsland communities and keep us safe.
“Daniel Andrews was only too happy to praise CFA volunteers when they were out there saving life and property in East Gippsland, but he sold them out as soon as the glare of the cameras disappeared.”