Firefighters rally over toxic chemicals

Issue 
Firefighters are campaigning for greater support for victims of toxic contamination.

Firefighters rallied outside state parliament house on August 16 to demand greater support for the victims of toxic contamination at the Country Fire Authority's (CFA) former Fiskville training facility.

Fiskville was closed down in 2015, but a state parliamentary enquiry found that CFA management had known about the contamination since 2010 and allowed training to continue there. The chemicals have been linked to a rise in the number of incidences of cancer and other diseases among firefighters who trained there.

The United Firefighters Union (UFU) wants comprehensive testing and compensation for those affected.

According to a UFU bulletin, "Many members who were exposed have not been informed by the CFA that blood testing is available. When they were tested some firefighters have faced long delays in receiving results and little or inaccurate information has been provided about what those results mean."

The union has also called for those responsible for the disaster to be held accountable.
Meanwhile, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VBFV), an organisation claiming to represent volunteer firefighters, has won a court injunction preventing the proposed enterprise agreement for firefighters employed by the CFA from being put to CFA staff for a vote.

VBFV, along with the Liberal Party and the media, has campaigned against the agreement, claiming it would adversely affect volunteer firefighters. However many volunteers disagree.

The Age has generally been hostile to the UFU and the proposed enterprise agreement. But an August 18 article admitted that: “Many volunteers have contacted the Age to attack the association [VFBV], saying that the organisation did not speak for all CFA volunteers”.

The proposed agreement includes provisions on staffing levels, safety, rostering and other working conditions that limit management's ability to do whatever it likes.

The Fiskville experience shows the need for firefighters and their union to have a say in matters affecting their safety and working conditions.

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