Volunteers betrayed: CFA board endorse agreement
IN what has been described as a “betrayal” of its volunteers, the Country Fire Authority Board endorsed the proposed United Fire?ghter Union Enterprise Bargaining Agreement on Friday.
Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino said the State Government welcomed the decision which he said “will end a dispute that has gone on for far too long” and will now “allow the CFA to focus on keeping Victorians safe”.
“The decision of the CFA Board comes after a period of consultation with Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria and United Fire? ghters Union,” Mr Merlino said.
“The proposed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and Joint Statement of intent that have been endorsed by the CFA Board contain a number of safeguards to protect the role of volunteer ? re? ghters and enhance diversity in the workforce,” he said.
“It is clear there needs to be a fundamental culture shift in the CFA and there is a real opportunity to address these challenges.”
However, the endorsement has not been welcomed by all, with Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria slamming it as a “betrayal” and seeking a further Supreme Court injunction to stop the processing of the agreement until the case is determined by the court.
In a note issued to all volunteers, the VFBV stated that it had been advised that “no changes put forward by volunteers in consultation process included because union and government wouldn’t agree”.
“Friday was a day of infamy that will burn into the memory of every CFA volunteer,” VFBV chief executive of? cer Andrew Ford said.
“It is the day 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,” he said.
“On Friday evening the 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 Of? cer overridden, union interference with volunteer organisation, operations and support, and see volunteers treated as second class just because they are not paid.”
Mr Ford said 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,” he said.
“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 bush? re risk because of climate change.”
“However, consideration of these issues was ignored by the majority of the current CFA Board, Premier Andrews and Mr Merlino who pushed them to accept the infamous Andrews-Marshall industrial deal.”
“The fact that the majority succumbed to political lies, manoeuvring and pressure re? ects badly on them in the manner they have exercised their duty as CFA Board members,” Mr Ford said. “We say the board members who supported this deal have ignored their statutory and ? duciary obligations under the CFA Act and Commonwealth corporate law,” he said. “They must be held accountable for this failure