Negotiation process slammed

Member for Morwell Russell Northe has criticised the State Government’s handling of the CFA enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations.

Mr Northe said while career firefighters deserved fair pay conditions, Premier Daniel Andrews “bulldozing” through the EBA was neglecting the organisation’s volunteers.

“I have been contacted by a number of volunteers who are simply outraged at the attempt to bulldoze the EBA through while a lot of outstanding concerns have not been addressed,” he said.

“It’s incorrect to say the issues have been resolved – the fact is they haven’t.

“It’s also quite sensational that the respective minister (Jane Garrett) saw fit to resign rather than accept the Premier’s position on this.”

The CFA Board was sacked by Emergency Services Minister James Merlino on Friday after failing to meet the 5pm deadline to come to an agreement with the United Firefighters Union.

Mr Merlino said he did not have confidence in the ability of the board to end a dispute that had gone on for “far too long”.

“It is clear there needs to be a fundamental culture shift in the CFA and this is a real opportunity to address those challenges facing our state’s emergency services,” he said.

“A new board and new consultative committee will bring together volunteer and career firefighters, management and the government to build a better culture and ultimately provide safety and certainty for all Victorians.” 

But Mr Northe said a new board was not the answer.

“The CEO of the CFA, the (former) Emergency Services Minister, the majority of CFA volunteers and the Victorian Farmers Federation among others have said they do not support certain clauses within the current EBA,” he said.

“The government is not listening to these people. We’ve got others who have scrutinised it to say it’s illegal and discriminatory in its current form but the government is still trying to ram the EBA through and blame the Coalition.”

A new board is expected to be appointed by the end of the week.