THE Victorian Farmers’ Federation is backing the CFA in its row with the United Firefighters Union.
It has called on CFA members and all Victorians “to put their names to a petition calling on the state government and CFA to stand their ground and not sign the draft 2015 enterprise agreement with the firefighters’ union in its current form”.
The VFF described the union’s demands as “absurd”.
“They risk seeing 60,000 volunteers walk away from the CFA and would lead to a massive blowout in the fire services property levy that all farmers, country households and businesses pay on their rates bills,” the federation says.
“The draft enterprise agreement is littered with clauses and schedules that give the union power of veto over CFA resourcing and staffing.”
The federation wants EBA negotiations halted until the full cost of the draft agreement to the CFA and government has been independently assessed and made public.
This assessment would look at additional staffing and wage increases, the cost of increased allowances, penalties and resources needed to employ UFU members plus 509 additional paid firefighters.
The federation also wants to assess the impact of the draft agreement on the fire services property levies that farmers, residents and businesses pay to fund the CFA up until 30 June 2019.
It wants all clauses removed from the agreement that restrict the CFA chief officer and board from recruiting, directing and allocating staff to where they are needed, as well as clauses that force the CFA to gain UFU approval to employ casual and part-time staff, and allocate resources and appliances.
“As it stands the CFA must gain union approval (on a case-by-case basis) before any casual or part-time staff can be employed, which acts as a major barrier to women working as paid CFA firefighters,” VFF president Peter Tuohey stated.
On the weekend, CFA acting chair John Peberdy wrote to firefighters’ secretary Peter Marshall seeking “further clarification” around a number of clauses Mr Peberdy says “could be discriminatory within the proposed operational EBA”.
The CFA had asked the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to review the UFU’s operational EBA log of claims. The review found a number of clauses “could be discriminatory and non-compliant with the Equal Opportunity Act”, Mr Peberdy said.
“We are committed to being open and transparent, and believe it’s important to have factual information available for CFA members during these negotiations.”