Senate inquiry: Firefighters challenge anti-union law

Issue 

Both professional and volunteer firefighters have spoken against the federal government's proposed new law aimed at blocking the implementation of the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement.

The firefighters were speaking to a Senate committee examining the proposed law, which would amend the Fair Work Act to ban certain “objectionable” terms in enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” (such as the CFA). The requirement for management to consult with the relevant union is one such "objectionable" term.

Opponents of the proposed CFA enterprise agreement object to clauses requiring management to consult with the union on a range of issues, and clauses specifying minimum staffing levels and safe working procedures.

The government claims that the proposed law will “protect” volunteer firefighters from a “takeover” by the United Firefighters Union (UFU), which represents professional firefighters. The government is supported by the leadership of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV).

But Raj Faour, a volunteer firefighter with the Hallam brigade, told the hearing that VFBV does not represent him. “The VFBV love to talk about how they represent the 60,000 volunteers,” he said. "Well I am one, and one of many that stand before you today and tell you that we are not represented by the VFBV".

The VFBV leadership has, however, succeeded in frightening some volunteer firefighters with the supposed threat of a "union takeover". Generally, the volunteers who are most susceptible to this scare campaign are those from small rural fire stations who have little or no contact with professional firefighters and the UFU.

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