‘Morale boost’ for CFA

HANDS OFF: Wangaratta volunteers protested the Victorian government involvement in EBA negotiations, now the CFA is celebrating the federal Senate decision.
Nanjing Night Net

An intervention by the federal Senate to protect firefighters has been welcomed as “great news for volunteers” in the North East.

The amendment, passed37 to 31late Monday night,will make it unlawful for enterprise agreements to “undermine”volunteers in favour of professional, unionised workers.

Oneissue with the CFA agreementwas the influence of the United Firefighters Union, which had the power to sign off on changes to CFA policy.

But the organisation’s 60,000 volunteers had no say.

Rutherglen group officer Andrew Russell said the Senate decision was a step towards repairing damage caused to volunteers.

“I’m hoping this news might boost a bit of morale,” he said.

“There’s a lack of engagement among volunteers at the moment and it’s a bit because of the issues.”

Volunteers were still busy in the wet season, helping SES crews with flood relief.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to CFA volunteers about a federal intervention when they rallied at Parliament house in Melbourne in June.

“That to me means a hell of a lot because it means he’s delivered his promise,” Mr Russellsaid.

“All I want now, more than anything, is a resolution because we’ve got really good relationships with our paid staff.”

Senator Bridget McKenzie

Senator Bridget McKenzie spoke in the Senate on Monday to thank CFA volunteers from Wangaratta and other parts of Victoria for travelling toMacedon in recent weeks for theinquiry into the Fair Work Amendment Bill.

“There are specific clauses right throughout the EBA which affect and impact on the CFA and their volunteers’ ability to do their job,”she said.

“The state legislation that sets up the CFA defines it as a volunteer organisation supported by employees, and that is rare and that takes unique management.

“It takes a unique approach to industrial relations –well, it should.”

She said UFUbossPeterMarshall claimed the agreement would not impact volunteers, but could not give her any evidence.

She said the bill was deliberately narrow so it would help the CFA, but not affect police, paramedics or other volunteers.

“Currently in Victoria, the CFA are in crisis with this EBA,” Senator McKenzie said.

“We on this side respect the role of both volunteer firefighters and paid firefighters and the courage that they all display in keeping us safe in emergencies.”

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