About a third of Victoria's firefighters have experienced bullying in the workplace and more than 95% believe that negative media coverage of their campaigns for new enterprise bargaining agreements had profoundly damaged workplace morale and led to "public aggression" and a "reluctance to disclose their occupation".
Metropolitan Fire Brigade
The toxic chemical blaze which started in a West Footscray factory, in Melbourne's west, on August 30, and took firefighters 17 hours to bring under control, has provoked such widespread anger that the state government has been forced to intervene.
United Firefighters Union (UFU) members employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) held meetings to discuss their struggle to win enterprise agreements for their workplaces on August 20.
The proposed new agreements are still being blocked, several years after the expiry of the previous agreements. This is largely due to federal industrial relations legislation that has created a range of obstacles. CFA and MFB managements have also obstructed attempts to resolve the problems.
Earlier this year firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) voted to endorse the proposed enterprise agreement that had been agreed on by MFB management and the United Firefighters Union (UFU).
This followed a long campaign by the union for an agreement that would protect workers' rights. UFU state secretary Peter Marshall told Green Left Weekly the agreement was endorsed by the "overwhelming majority" of firefighters.
Both of Victoria's daily newspapers, The Age and the Herald-Sun, had front page articles on March 6 attacking the proposed enterprise agreement covering firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). This agreement is currently being voted on by MFB staff.
Firefighters employed by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) have begun voting on a new enterprise agreement, which includes a pay rise of 19% over four years.
The previous agreement expired in 2013.
MFB management resisted including clauses in the new agreement requiring it to consult with the United Firefighters Union (UFU) on a range of questions, such as equipment and uniforms, and clauses clearly specifying the rights of workers in relation to issues such as rosters.
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 Victorian Labor government has announced its plans for restructuring Victoria's fire services.
Currently, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade covers only part of the Melbourne metropolitan area, while the Country Fire Authority (CFA) covers not only rural areas but also regional cities and many of Melbourne's suburbs.
The proposed law would create a new body, Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), which would cover the whole Melbourne metropolitan area and regional cities.
The Victorian Labor government is considering a restructure of Victoria's fire services, according to a report in the May 9 Herald Sun.
Victoria has two fire services — the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA). The boundaries between the zones covered by these two bodies have not been changed for many years. With the expansion of Melbourne, many outer suburbs are covered by the CFA. So too are large towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo.
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.