MFB office staff to vote on agreement

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall addresses firefighters outside Parliament House.
August 26, 2017

Workers employed in the Corporate and Technical Division of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) will vote on a new enterprise agreement during the two weeks beginning on August 31. The Corporate and Technical Division includes non-firefighting employees of the MFB, such as payroll and finance staff and computer technicians.

The agreement was negotiated between MFB management and the United Firefighters Union (UFU). During the campaign, workers belonging to the UFU took various forms of industrial action, such as bans on communicating via email, processing payments to vendors, conducting work in relation to tenders etc.

According to an August 22 UFU bulletin, the new agreement includes strengthened job security provisions, improved consultation provisions and increases in various allowances. There will be a pay rise of 5%, backdated to April 7, and three further pay rises of 3.75% in 2018, 2019 and 2020. There will be a $1500 sign on bonus.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee set up to examine the proposed restructure of Victoria's fire services was unable to reach agreement. Labor and Greens members of the committee supported the proposal, while Coalition and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party members opposed it.

The proposed restructure would end the current situation where much of the Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities are covered by the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and receive an inferior service. The restructure would create a new body called Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which would cover the whole metropolitan area and regional cities, while the CFA would continue to cover rural areas.

FRV would employ all paid firefighters, while the CFA would organise all volunteer firefighters. This organisational separation between professional and volunteer firefighters should prevent Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), an organisation claiming to represent volunteers (though headed by a highly-paid CEO), from interfering in the negotiations for the enterprise agreement covering paid firefighters.

Legislation passed by the federal government last year gave "volunteer" organisations like VFBV the power to delay and perhaps prevent the signing of enterprise agreements for emergency service workers. This is why firefighters in Victoria still do not have an agreement.

The bill before the Victorian parliament, in addition to dealing with the proposed restructure, also includes provisions for compensation for firefighters who get certain types of cancer as a result of their work.

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