THE new State Government-appointed CEO of the CFA, Franes Driver, addressed 68 local CFA volunteers in the Leongatha Fire Station last Wednesday night on the highly controversial paid Firefighters Unions Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA).
Ms Diver defended the actions of the new CFA Board, who contentiously approved the government-endorsed EBA recently.
She argued that this decision needed to be accepted and the organisation move forward.
Ms Driver also acknowledged that the agreement was not perfect, but it is the best that they can get.
Many of those present were not happy with her position, and she was given many heated questions and comments.
The meeting was organised by the local branch of the Volunteer Fire Brigades of Victoria (VFBV), the association that represents the volunteer fire-fighters around the state.
When the government-appointed CFA board decided to sign this agreement, the VFBV went to the Victorian Supreme Court to get a trial into the many issues volunteers have in the agreement.
The Supreme Court agreed, ordering that the EBA be suspended until the issues can be addressed in a trial which is scheduled late in September.
Andrew Ford, the CEO of the VFBV, spoke to the meeting after Ms Diver.
Ms Diver had insisted that Mr Ford not be present during her address, so he waited in another room, until she left.
He briefed the gathering on what had happened over the past four months leading to the Supreme Court trial listed for September 22.
EBA issues to which volunteers take exception to are
• Erosion of the CFA’s Chief Officers’ ability to manage the organisation
• Concerns the union will be able to veto how volunteers work within the CFA
• Seeks to change the positions and roles of staff who provide critical support to volunteers.
• Some clauses will breach the CFA Act, including consultation rights of volunteers.
Mr Ford said taking legal action is not something they have taken lightly.
But after the sacking of the previous CFA Board, forced resignations of the Emergency Services Minister, Jane Garrett, CFA CEO Lucinda Nolan and Chief Officer Joe Buffone (who all said this EBA was unworkable, and had serious flaws) only the VFBV was left to defend Volunteer Fire Fighters rights.
Mr Ford was strong in his support of paid fire fighters.
“This disagreement is not about them, or their pay and conditions,” he said.
He also talked about the recently released Federal Government changes to the Fairwork Australia Act, which would protect Volunteer Emergency Services workers, of which there are 250,000 around Australia.
He believes that future EBAs will not be able to overrule the CFA Act, or similar acts in the other states and territories.
The meeting strongly endorsed the actions of the VFBV, with both a motion of support and donations to the Valuing Volunteers Support Fund, which the association has set up to fund this and other actions.
This fund is open for contributions from the general community.
Details are on the VFBV’s website, www.VFBV.com.au, or people can speak to their local brigades.