"What do we want? A fair deal. When do we want it? Now!" more than 1000 firefighters chanted as they marched through the streets of Melbourne on December 8.
The Victorian Labor government, like its Liberal predecessor, has refused to reach an agreement with the United Firefighters Union (UFU) that would guarantee firefighters' working conditions. December 8 was the 977th day without a workplace agreement.
The march was shown video clips of Labor leader Daniel Andrews' speech to firefighters 11 days before the election, when he promised firefighters would have their pay deal resolved. Andrews said he "valued" the work of firefighters, "respected" their sacrifices, and "honoured" the risks they take. Many firefighters campaigned for Labor in the election.
UFU secretary Peter Marshall said the speech had turned out to be just “political rhetoric”. “For our leaders in parliament to use you politically the way that you have been used is an absolute disgraceful act,” he said to firefighters.
In October the Labor government said negotiations had broken down amid differing claims over the pay rate the UFU would accept. The most recent offer of 14% over three years was rejected by the union members, who argued it was actually over six years.
Fire fighters from as far as Mildura, Warrnambool, Portland and Latrobe Valley joined the Melbourne contingent at Trades Hall for breakfast before marching to “ask for a better Christmas for firefighters' families”.
Marshall said “Last week it was reported that train drivers will get a base wage of $92,000 plus penalties, or around $120,000. A CFA Qualified Firefighter gets a base wage of $69,500 for a 42-hour week.
“We just want a fair deal and an end to this incredible saga.”