My question is for the Minister for Emergency Services. In my electorate of South-West Coast I have over 50 local Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigades and hundreds of committed CFA volunteers. The ongoing push by the United Firefighters Union (UFU) leaders in their demands for more power in their enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) negotiations with the government is creating growing unrest among volunteer firefighters.
Long-serving firefighters have told me in recent days they are over it and just want to resign. The current situation, where militant union leaders want to gain control for control’s sake — this being reflected in the veto aspect of the proposed EBA — is nothing short of belligerent and is insulting to volunteers and their contribution. Only last week volunteers vented their anger over the UFU sending late-night messages via the emergency paging system. Surely pagers should be for emergencies, not union propaganda.
I ask: when will the minister put an end to this issue and restore common sense so these volunteers can get on with doing what they do best in our regions and do not risk losing this important grassroots safety net?
Answer from Jane Garrett MP, Minister for Emergency Services
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers, including volunteers of the CFA brigades in the South-West Coast, play a vital role in protecting Victoria from all manner of disasters. The Victorian Government greatly values and respects the work of volunteers in our communities.
Please be assured that I have noted the concerns raised by members of the CFA in your electorate. As I have stated publicly, the focus of the Victorian Government is ensuring that we reach an enterprise agreement with the United Firefighters Union that respects and values the great work of both our paid and volunteer firefighters.
Thank you for raising this matter with me.