Emergency Services | June 29, 2020

Labor blatantly disregards CFA volunteers

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.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria – the peak body that represents volunteer firefighters – and the Victorian Liberal Nationals had grave concerns about changes due to take effect on Wednesday, when the new Fire Rescue Victoria entity will commence operation.

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.”

Ms Kealy said these concerns included the Andrews Government’s blatant disregard for legislation that requires it to consult volunteers over any changes that 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.

Ms Kealy said she has been contacted by many local CFA volunteers who were deeply concerned about the changes.

“The CFA as we know it will be dead. It will not be the standalone volunteer organisation the Andrews Government promised,” she said.

“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.

“Many volunteers no longer have the strength to fight Daniel Andrews’ betrayal. These are the same men and women who put their lives on the line through the worst of summer’s bushfires.

“The Liberals and Nationals voted against Labor’s changes to the CFA because we knew they would undermine the great work that volunteers do to protect our community, and we will not stop fighting for them until their concerns are addressed and they are given the respect they deserve.”

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