The United Firefighters Union (UFU) filed a request with the Fair Work Commission on January 20 for a ballot on protected industrial action by UFU members in the Corporate and Technical Division of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).
The proposed industrial action would involve 21 work bans, including bans on communicating via email, processing payments to vendors and conducting any work in relation to tenders.
The proposed bans would be imposed in support of the demand for a new enterprise agreement to replace the previous one, which expired last November. Issues in dispute include pay, a nine day fortnight, disciplinary procedures and consultation provisions.
Meanwhile, the disputes over the enterprise agreements for operational staff (firefighters) in the MFB and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) remain unresolved. The previous agreements expired more than three years ago.
UFU state secretary Peter Marshall told Green Left Weekly that consultation is a key issue for firefighters. He said it is vital that the two agreements include provisions for firefighters to be consulted on issues that affect them. Calling this a "life and death matter", he cited cases where management had purchased unsafe equipment and uniforms without consulting those who would be using them.
Marshall said that in the case of the CFA, the main obstacle is federal legislation restricting what can be included in enterprise agreements for emergency service workers. However he is hopeful that a solution can be found.
In the case of the MFB, the main obstacle is the intransigence of management. Another key issue is the MFB's antiquated and unfair “court martial” system of discipline.