Cash must resign over firefighter lies: Bandt

Greens employment spokesperson, Adam Bandt MP, called on Employment Minister Michaela Cash to resign over lies in her opinion piece in support of proposed Government legislation in today’s Herald Sun.

“The Minister has revealed that the government’s scare campaign in support of its industrial relations legislation is built on a lie,” said Mr Bandt.

“Minister Cash wrote today that the proposed enterprise agreement requires ‘Seven paid firefighters (ie union members) to be present before CFA personnel are able to be deployed to a fire’.”

“This is not true. The agreement requires seven paid firefighters to be dispatched to an incident, not to be present at it. This means that if volunteers turn up first, they can start fighting the fire, even if the paid staff have not arrived.”

“The government’s key election issue and its priority legislation is built on a lie by the relevant Minister. Either she is lying or she doesn’t understand the enterprise agreement, but either way she must now go.”

“Community safety requires good relationships between volunteers and paid staff."

“The clause in question governs what happens for safety reasons at ‘integrated’ stations in highly urbanised areas where both paid and volunteer firefighters work, not at volunteer stations like Coldstream where the Minister is visiting today.”

“Minister Cash is not only misleading the public, she’s putting community safety at risk by opportunistically encouraging animosity between CFA volunteers and paid staff.”

“Minister Cash must resign and the government must ditch this bill that is based on a lie.”

Media contact: Adam Pulford, 0429 109 054

Minister Cash said today:

“A new enterprise bargaining agreement would completely surrender control of the CFA to the United Firefighters Union, by requiring:

Seven paid firefighters (ie union members) to be present before CFA personnel are able to be deployed to a fire.”

The relevant clause from the agreement reads as follows:

77.5.

Consistent with the increases in staffing provided in this Agreement, the CFA will conduct an extensive range of preventative and preparedness programs and meet its duty of care by ensuring a minimum of seven professional firefighters to fireground incidents are dispatched before commencement of safe firefighting operations. This requirement applies to integrated stations in Districts 2, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, and 27. Consistent with the increases in staffing provided in this Agreement, CFA will also ensure that there is a minimum of seven professional firefighters to fireground incidents that professional firefighters are dispatched to before commencement of safe firefighting operations for the following integrated stations being Shepparton and Mildura professional firefighters by no later than 1 January 2017 and Warrnambool professional firefighters by no later than 1 January 2018. (Emphasis added).

To avoid doubt, in accordance with current procedure, after undertaking a risk assessment/sizeup upon arrival at the fire/incident, the first arriving Incident Controller on scene can determine the number of appliances and crews required for the fire/incident and can notify oncoming appliances and crews that they are not required to attend. (Emphasis added).

The Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner has also recently commented on the issue (from ABC here):

“Mr Lapsley said early concerns raised by the VFBV, including a clause they believed would mean operations could not begin until there were seven professional firefighters on the ground, had been cleared up.

"If you go back to the start, volunteers were really concerned about seven on the fireground, that's been clarified. That will not impact on volunteers," he said.

"If you read the words, and that's where I've got to step in and be pretty strong on this, the words are very clear about not impacting on volunteers doing their job."”

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