Chris Slee

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) has dropped its legal challenge to the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement in Victoria's Supreme Court. This enables the agreement to be put to CFA employees for a vote.

However, this is unlikely to be the end of the dispute. VFBV is likely to try other means of blocking the agreement.

The Senate voted on October 10 to pass legislation aimed at blocking the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) enterprise agreement.

Those voting for the law were the Coalition, Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team and right-wing independents David Leyonhjelm and Derryn Hinch. Labor, the Greens and independent Jacqui Lambie opposed the bill.

Refugee activists attended a meeting on October 3 to discuss strategy for the refugee rights movement.

The meeting was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) in response to an article written by Robert Manne, Tim Costello, Frank Brennan and John Menadue calling for a "compromise" solution to "our refugee crisis".

RAC invited Manne to speak at the forum. Chris Breen spoke on behalf of RAC.

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.

Tamils protest on August 3 against Sri Lankan navy land grabs in Mullivaikkal. Tamils who had been protesting outside a military cantonment in a suburb of Kilinochchi began a hunger strike on September 7.

In March, the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) received a secret report from anti-union law firm Seyfarth Shaw Australia giving advice on how to attack the United Firefighters Union (UFU).

According to a Fairfax Media article summarising the leaked report, it recommended hiring firefighters on "individual and/or non-union contracts". It also recommended reducing union officials' right of entry into CFA workplaces.

An Australian lawyer who lodged a submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2014 calling for an investigation of Australian detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, told a Refugee Action Collective (RAC) forum in Melbourne on September 5 that the release of the Nauru files has improved the chances of action being taken.

The federal government has published a proposed law to restrict the rights of firefighters and other emergency service workers. The new law will amend the Fair Work Act to ban enterprise agreements covering workers employed by a “designated emergency management body” from containing “objectionable” terms — including requirements for management to consult with the relevant union.
More than 60 people took part in a vigil outside the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on September 2 to support Jasmine Pilbrow who was found guilty of “interference with a crew member of an aircraft”. In February last year, Pilbrow refused to take her seat on a Qantas aircraft in which a Tamil asylum seeker was being taken to Darwin before being deported to Sri Lanka. Melanie Brown told the gathering her friend had peacefully explained to others on the plane her reasons for taking the action. Two other people then also stood up.
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) has commissioned a survey of bullying, harassment and discrimination within Victoria's Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and Country Fire Authority (CFA). The survey is being conducted by researchers from the University of Newcastle. Meanwhile, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) is carrying out a survey commissioned by MFB and CFA management. The UFU has advised its members not to participate in the VEOHRC survey.
About 250 people attended a rally on August 4 in solidarity with 55 sacked maintenance workers who had been employed at the Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) plant in Abbotsford. The workers, members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, were sacked on June 10. They were told they could re-apply for their jobs with a new contracting company, but that their pay would be cut by 65%. The rally, held outside the CUB brewery, was attended by members and officials from a wide range of unions.
Mass meetings of members of the United Firefighters Union (UFU) on July 26 voted to endorse in principle two proposed enterprise agreements negotiated with the Victorian state government. One agreement covers workers employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), while the other covers the Country Fire Authority (CFA). The two agreements provide for pay rises and cover a wide range of other issues including rostering, staffing levels and occupational health and safety.
The children of Santhiyogu Anton, who was abducted, tortured by Sri Lankan security forces. Photo from Tamilnet. Santhiyogu Anton, a 38 year old Tamil man, was abducted and tortured by Sri Lankan military intelligence on June 29. After previous experiences of harassment by military intelligence, Anton had sought the assistance of the Catholic Church. He was allowed to stay at a church near the city of Mannar.
Socialist councillor Sue Bolton convinced Moreland Council on July 13 to reinstate the after-hours Aged and Disability Home Support Services for existing clients as well as new ones. Bolton said she was enormously grateful to the parents of children with disabilities who spoke up on behalf of all the parents who were unable to come to the meeting or who didn’t think it was possible to fight the cut. “Those parents put a human face on the implications of a very bureaucratic cut: their stories had an impact on the other councillors”, Bolton told Green Left Weekly.

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