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Ferntree Gully F


Mail Covering the Dandenongs in the Yarra Ranges & Cardinia Shires

YEAR IN REVIEW What made news in 2016 Tuesday, 10 January, 2017

A Mail News Group publication

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THE BITTER dispute between the CFA and United Firefighters Union (UFU) dominated Mail news headlines in 2016. Dandenong Ranges firefighters were at risk of becoming disenfranchised over an ongoing industrial dispute. The dispute centred on the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), which was being argued by the UFU, the Victorian Government and the CFA. The EBA stipulates a pay deal that would affect the wages of career firefighters, working conditions and safely measures. The UFU demanded clauses that would affect the power balance between the UFU and the CFA, and between career (paid) and volunteer firefighters. Rejecting the UFU’s proposal, the CFA was concerned that the UFU would gain too much power over its operational decision-making processes. In response to the EBA, the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) said they did not get a fair say at the Fair Work Commission when it was considering the proposal. In June, Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett resigned from Cabinet while the dispute was in full force. The ‘Mail’ reported on Tuesday 14 June that Olinda CFA Captain Phil Skiller said the resignation of Ms Garrett was a huge blow. “We’re disappointed to hear the Minister has gone, we were very much behind what she believed in and we supported her,” Mr Skiller said. Premier Daniel Andrews said in a statement that Ms Garrett refused to support the Cabinet’s proposal to end the feud. Monbulk MP and Deputy Premier James Merlino was then announced as Ms Garrett’s replacement. Premier Andrews issued an ultimatum for the CFA board to accept the EBA before 5pm on Friday 10 June, but a Supreme Court injunction to postpone the signing was granted until Wednes-

day 22 June. Shortly after, the CFA board was sacked and quickly replaced. “I do not have confidence in the ability of the board to end a dispute that has gone on for far too long and to deliver the reform that the Country Fire Authority needs to keep our community safe,“ Mr Merlino said in a statement at the Cranbourne CFA in June. Friday 17 June saw hundreds of CFA volunteers, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Member for La Trobe Jason Wood march along Burwood Highway to protest outside of Mr Merlino’s office in Belgrave. Criticism was directed at several aspects of the agreement, including a ‘seven on the fire ground’ clause that would require seven paid firefighters to be dispatched to a fire before work could begin. Some news outlets reports Dandenong Ranges CFA members were threatening to resign if the EBA went ahead. Gembrook MP, Brad Battin criticised the Victorian Government, claiming it was part of a payback deal to “the union mates who got him elected in 2014”. “The decision could trigger massive changes in the CFA as we know it, including the resignation of thousands of volunteers,” he said. In October, news outlets reported the VFBV dropping Supreme Court action over the long-running dispute. The VFBC went to court to prevent the CFA from putting the EBA to a union vote, and said the deal would hurt volunteers. But the Federal Government introduced changes to the Fair Work Act, so the agreement cannot interfere with emergency service volunteers. In a visit to Montrose on Thursday, 5 January, Mr Merlino said he was “disappointed“ the dispute had “not been fully resolved“, and said the CFA and MFB’s agreements were before the Fair Work Commission. “I don’t have any timelines for you in terms of when these matters will be resolved."


By Jodie Symonds

Mail - Ferntree Gully Mail - 10th January 2017  
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