Some more Pertinent Facts about the CFA/UFU Dispute in Victoria.

 

 

Note – this article should be read in conjunction with my previous article

 

https://vinceogrady.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/did-the-liberal-cfa-lies-lose-the-labor-party-government/

 

 

The purpose of this article is to put fire fighting in Victoria into its historical context. Then, ask some pertinent questions which will make the reader think about the current CFA/UFU dispute and the Political interference by the Federal Government.

 

I want to explore what the Fire Service people actually do and how well they are appreciated by the representatives of the people, the Government.

 

It was obviously a good idea to have a Fire Service. The Melbourne Fire Service came into being in 1891 after the first fire brigade Act was passed in 1890. That was 125 years ago. Before that volunteer Brigades existed back as far as 1845. In 1889 five fire fighters were killed on the job.

 

The population in Victoria in 1890 was 1,125,193. The City of Melbourne had a population of 490,000.   After the formation of the Melbourne Fire Brigade there were 59 permanent fire fighters.

 

In 2016 Melbourne has a population is 5.2 Million with 2200 Permanent fire fighters in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

There are 1000 Professional Firefighters in the CFA in 2016 and just under 36,000 operational Volunteers. Not the 60,000 claimed by the Liberal party.

The Enterprise bargaining agreement for the CFA/UFU members only covers Professional paid Fire fighters.

For regional Victoria the Country Fire Authority Board was set up in 1891.

27 Metropolitan Fire fighters, since 1837, have lost their lives protecting the community.

67 CFA Fire Fighters have lost their lives since the formation of the CFA in 1944.

 

What do Fire fighters do and what are the risks doing it?

 

This may seem like a silly question but when you look at what they do, it’s a dangerous job in several ways, not least mentally.

DUTY                                                                     HAZARD

House Fires:                A variety of materials with a different chemicals composition

Smoke and  fire.

Industrial premises: A variety of materials with much more different and toxic  Chemicals.

Smoke and fire.

Wildfires:                      Intense heat and speed of advance.  Difficult terrain and access.

Ingress and Egress.

Road accidents:            Busy roads and Traffic whilst working on Accidents.

Seeing horrendou injuries and death.

Natural Disasters:      Storms, Lightening and other adverse weather conditions and

consequential damage.

 

These are a few of the things all fire fighters do. It is therefore most important that they do them in the safest possible way. This is a most important point. To fight a fire the professional needs to be trained in different types of fire, accidents and natural disasters.

 

Types of Fire

Class A                                  Paper and Wood.

Class B                                  Flammable liquids eg Paint and Petrol

Class C                                  Flammable gases eg Butane and Methane

Class D                                  Flammable Metals eg Lithium,Potassium and Magnesium

Electrical                              Electrical Equipment eg Computers and generators

Class F                                   Deep fat fryers eg Chip pans.

 

 

This is a very basic classification and the fire fighter needs to have an understanding of the best way to extinguish the particular class of fire – whether to use water, foam, dry powder, CO2 or wet chemical.

 

Training

 

The MFB 2014 –15 Annual Report says that the MFB were called out 36,923 times in that year.

The CFA 2014 – 15 Annual Report says that the CFA had 40,557 incidents in the year, with 82,880 turnouts.

 

Whatever the number, these are busy people. They need a lot of training to meet the competencies required for the job.

Fiskville Training Centre

The major Training Base for the CFA was at Fiskville near Bacchus Marsh. It opened in 1972 and was closed in 2015.

As the training centre evolved different training was done in order to closely emulate the different types of fire described above. Many third parties trained there, including the MFB.

In 2011 the Herald Sun newspaper broke a story about the safety at Fiskville. The first report was about Brian Potter who was seriously ill. Brian had been Chief Instructor at Fiskville, He lived there.  In response to his recurrent illnesses, he sought Information and a meeting with Senior CFA staff to discuss the possibility of chemical contamination at Fiskville. This was in June 2011. Unaccountably the meeting he was supposed to have with a board member was cancelled. In December Brian went to the paper. He had been Chief Officer of the CFA.

Part of the newspaper report is worth highlighting.

“He knows nine from Fiskville who have died – cancers, brain tumours, heart failure, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma. There are probably more he doesn’t know about. He wonders why the CFA isn’t helping them and their families.”   And then this:

“Brian remembered there was a report hidden deep in CFA headquarters detailing some of the chemicals handled carelessly at Fiskville. He had heard rumours that something dangerous was contained in those drums.

A few months ago, he called a senior member of the CFA and told him his fears. They picked a morning and made a time to meet a week or two later.

“They have a duty of care to him, and to everyone else that may be affected,” Diane (his wife) says.

But the CFA man didn’t show up. Brian hasn’t heard another word from CFA headquarters.”

The report also says in response to the cost of Petroleum based products used in the production of suitable fire training exercises.

“So CFA workers would scour Victoria for combustible waste – there was plenty of that stuff. Burning pad supervisor Ken Lee remembers taking out the Fiskville tanker and sucking up the sludge from the bottom of service station tanks, collecting old fish-n-chip shop oil, air force waste and paint and petrochemical factory left-overs.

It was the worst of the worst gunk. Everyone in the business knew Fiskville was a willing dumping ground.”

Another  Herald Sun report claimed deaths from contamination and seriously ill CFA staff from contaminants at the site. The report talks about dangerous chemical exposure.

In response to the Herald Sun story, the CFA Board immediately appointed (December 2011) an “independent” expert to examine the newspaper claims.  Professor Robert Joy, Chaired the report and his report is known as the Joy report. Published June 2012.

The CFA response to the Joy report can be viewed here.

Part of that 21 page response reiterates the following from the Joy Report.

“The conclusions of Professor Joy (pages 140 –142 of the Report) are reproduced below.

 CONCLUSIONS

 The historical risks to staff and the environment at Fiskville associated with the use of a range of flammable materials in training will never be fully known.”

 

As part of his review Professor Joy had access to CFA records. This is important because of the later Parliamentary enquiry.

The response said this.

“We also acknowledge the extent of the technical and support work that needed to be done to ensure the Investigation was robust and independent. Four million documents were searched and a targeted review was undertaken of 30,000 documents with 8,000 documents deemed relevant to the task. A range of environmental studies were undertaken and individual interviews needed to be structured so that they were thorough and could be relied upon to clarify the issues presented to Professor Joy and his team.”

 

The Joy report actually said this about documents. Page 28/169

 

“In January 2012, the IFI retained KordaMentha to undertake an independent search of CFA documents (both physical and electronic). KordaMentha searched an estimated four million records at 18 CFA sites, the Public Records Office and third party document stores. Record keeping practices varied across these sites, but were generally poor, with very limited and inaccurate cataloguing. One benefit of the Investigation has been to provide the CFA with an electronic catalogue and copies of a large body of records, many of which could not be reviewed within the timeframe of the Investigation.

In the time available, the Investigation undertook a targeted review of some 30,000 documents with about 8,000 assessed as most relevant reviewed more closely. The Investigation used e-document search tools and analysis software to import, classify and query information. Experienced analysts and investigators then evaluated information and developed rigorous lines of argument and conclusions.”

 

 

Chemicals used at Fiskville.

 

The Joy report said this at page 10/169

 

“Like flammable substances, the sources and manner of supply of foam concentrates to Fiskville historically is unclear and largely undocumented. Although a couple of documents were found from the 1990s noting product names for some foams, the Investigation did not locate documentary evidence confirming how foam was supplied to Fiskville. Some was likely to have come from commercial suppliers. However, some investigation participants noted that some foams were acquired through donations.

 

A variety of firefighting foams have been used in training at Fiskville. These include: high expansion foam, designed principally for flooding enclosed spaces and Class B foams used on liquid fires. The second group includes: synthetic aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) and alcohol resistant aqueous film forming foams (AR-AFFF) and fluoroprotein foams (FP), a type of biodegradable foam based on animal or other protein sources with the addition of a fluorinated surfactant. Both AFFF and AR-AFFF contain the fluorosurfactants perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Both of these are readily absorbed by the body after ingestion and are very slowly eliminated. Since the late 1990s, PFOA and PFOS have been a focus of concern over their potentially harmful effects on human health and the environment.”

Material Safety Data sheets have been in existence for a long time. What good salesman would sell a dangerous product without explaining that it may have risks to the user? Ethical seller of chemicals for instance would have a moral duty to disclose and have had for (arguably) hundreds of years.

The Original Comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Act in Victoria was in 1985 and whilst a search of the Act does not mention the word Chemical we all know that chemicals are Hazardous and that is the language used.

This interesting academic document discusses the History of Material Safety data Sheets (MSDS)

In the Joy Report the first mention of Material Safety Data sheets is in 1996 on page 123/169.

“a decision was taken to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) and to label all dangerous goods; “

Documents relating to the Joy enquiry. Those scrutinised and those not, due to time constraints.

Page 28/169.

“The IFI was able to identify and review a number of key, known documents from the outset of its work obtained directly from CFA or key participants. However, the IFI received most of the documentation from the KordaMentha search from mid-April 2012. By the beginning of May, approximately 30,000 potentially relevant documents were provided to IFI. These were further reviewed and some 8,000 deemed most relevant were examined through a qualitative analysis system (outlined below). A process was established to escalate documents most likely to be relevant to the Investigation. By the end of May a further 50,000 documents were provided by KordaMentha. This largely reflects the size and complexity of the search process. Through May the Investigation scaled back review of documents to focus on the KordaMentha database will be passed to CFA following the Investigation. KordaMentha also undertook an extensive search of electronic documents but, this was not completed in time for the Investigation to consider. However, the Investigation believes the majority of the key documents from the period of interest, 1971-1999, were hard copies and would have been discovered through the search and interview process.

Where potentially relevant documents were identified, these were electronically scanned and labelled by specialist contractors, and stored in a Relativity database by KordaMentha and accessed solely by the IFI.

This scanning process presented challenges – such as scanning fragile, bound books or microfiches – and extended the timeframe until the documents were available to the Investigation. KordaMentha has also captured and stored documents produced in the course of the Investigation, including documents provided by EPA, WorkSafe, participants and researchers.

A single, secure, electronic repository of documents potentially relevant to the Terms of Reference is a major legacy of the Investigation. As well as providing a key resource for the Investigation, KordaMentha’s work will provide CFA with an accurate catalogue of many of its most critical records, which can be readily searched, and electronic copies of important degrading historical documents. This database will be provided to CFA following the Investigation.”

 

The relevance of this document quote from the Joy Report becomes readily apparent when we read of the limitations on his report. Page 32/169

“Key Limitations of the Investigation

While the Chair considers a thorough investigation has been conducted

in response to the Terms of Reference, there were a number of

significant limitations which have been canvassed in this chapter.

Key limitations include:

n The administrative nature of the Investigation, and therefore the

lack of ability to compel witnesses or documents

n The short time frame for the Investigation relative to its complexity

n The extensive, complex document search required

n The large, sensitive interview program undertaken

n Seeking to reconstruct events and practices which occurred over

the past forty years

n The lack of documentation of informal and historical practices

n The challenge for witnesses to recall matters that happened so far

in the past.”

 

 Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee Inquiry into the CFA Training College at Fiskville

Following the change of Government in November 2014, the incoming Andrews Labor Government instigated the above Inquiry on 23rd December 2014.

The Interim report was tabled in June 2015

Before the final report however a special report on the non production of documents was released in November 2015.

Their final report was tabled in Parliament on 24thMay 2016. It is 528 pages long.

It is instructive to note that this was nearly a month after the Liberal party had registered the Hands off the CFA website.

The terms of reference were simple.

  1. a comprehensive historical study of pollution, contamination and unsafe activities at Fiskville between 1970 and the present day;
  2. a study of the health impacts on employees, residents and visitors between 1970 and the present day;
  3. a study of the role of past and present executive management at Fiskville;
  4. an assessment of the feasibility of decontamination/rectification of the training site; and
  5. recommendations as necessary to mitigate ongoing harm and to provide justice to victims and their families.

* On 10 March 2016, the reporting date was extended to 16 May 2016.

 

Yet although the Joy Inquiry did an enormous job on collecting collating and making an electronic database of documents, The Board minutes, which were requested by the Committee of Inquiry, were not produced.

The Special Report states at page 8/28.

“The CFA Administration has issued many assurances to the Committee that it wants to cooperate with the Fiskville Inquiry. In spite of this the Committee had to issue summonses in order to access critical information. We are now forced to table this report to Parliament due to documents not being produced under the terms of the summons relating to CFA Board papers.

This special report details the extensive withholding of information that is crucial to the Committee’s understanding about what happened at Fiskville from 1970 to the present.

These documents and information being withheld go to the very heart of the terms of reference we are required by Parliament to investigate. For example, we know that requests for information regarding chemicals used at Fiskville were made to the board in 1987. Yet as the report demonstrates, the CFA has not provided any of the minutes from the 22 meetings held that year.”

 

The chemicals used at Fiskville and their characteristics.

For years Governments and Agencies have known that the characteristics of chemicals are an important factor to the Health and well being of Human beings. This is illustrated by the use of chemical agents in the first war to gain advantage over the enemy.

Some Questions

1/ Isn’t it a logical conclusion that the use of Chlorine in the first War, with the damage it can cause that such specific knowledge would have been transferred to the training College at Fiskville, where chlorine was also used in training?

2/ And that the Management of the CFA would have been wary of the use of chemicals when they had this specific entrenched knowledge in the Australia/Victorian psyche?

3/  Why, when a large relational database had been assembled under the Joy Inquiry, the CFA management refused, under a summons of the Parliament to produce documents?

4/  Why, when it has now been well established that the chemicals in the type of foam used in training at Fiskville ( ie PFC’s (Perflorinated Chemicals), notably PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonate ) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are stably persistent and their use has been banned, did the CFA not give the Parliamentary enquiry access to their database?

For the assistance of the readers this link goes to the material Safety Data sheet of perfluorooctanoic acid.

On the same website there is an abstract of Studies in Japan which conclude (Report of 2005) that these substances cause cancer.

Whilst these links may not be conclusive evidence of their adverse nature to human inhalation, ingestion or skin contact, the reports are worrying.

5/ There is however a much more important question about one of the 14 Previous CFA Board’s stated objection (In clause 78 of the EBA) to  the use of Potable (essentially clean drinking water) in the training environment that the UFU wanted?

Why, after two Enquiries and Health and Environmental Studies; where it was proven that Fiskville was contaminated with PFOS and PFOA contaminants in the Dams used to store firefighting (recycled) water, did they object so strongly, when they had themselves (that is the CFA) installed two tanks (Capacity 240,000 each) in June and October 2012 at the Fiskville facility so as not to use the contaminated Dam run off from the fire training area and which used potable water for training?

This only covers Chemical Contamination. What biological hazards does non – potable water used in training contain?

6/ In light of the above what lessons have the Board and management learned of occupational Health and Safety priorities of an employer? (Oh&S Act Victoria of 1985).

It is only recently that the MFB have had uniforms which have a barrier so that fluids cannot flow into or out of the uniform at a fire ground. Because of the UFU, the whole of MFB and CFA are now issued with this Personal Protective Equipment.

7/ Consultation about equipment for use on a fire ground:  Isn’t it a good idea to let the people who fight the fires actually have a say in the choice of the best equipment to drive to a fire and fight it?

That is the way I read the consultation clause. Didn’t the CFA want to consult with their experts as to the best of equipment? The choice of the best equipment is actually a cost saving exercise, the quicker the brigade can get to a fire and put it out, the lower the cost to the community and it’s also much safer.

8/ Michaelia Cash and 7 on the fire ground.

On 12th August the new CFA board and the UFU issued a joint statement of intent on how this clause would work.

Here is the wording of that joint statement.

Seven on the fire ground

         6.It is the mutual intention of the parties that clause 77.5, 43.2.7 and 44.13 of the Agreement operates in the following manner:

The clause only relates to integrated stations in districts 2, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 and 27, and toWarrnambool, Shepparton and Mildura once the additional resources to achieve seven professional fire fighter positions per shift in Schedule 1 are in place.

The requirement only applies to professional fire fighters, it does not prevent volunteers from providing the services normally provided by volunteers.

In the integrated stations where the provision applies, it requires a minimum of seven professional fire fighters to be dispatched to fire ground incidents before commencement of safe fire fighting operations. It does not require seven professional fire fighters to be physically at the fire ground before the commencement of fire fighting operations.

 Incident controllers maintain their discretion as to the management of resources in the interests of public safety after undertaking a risk assessment/size up upon arrival at the fire/incident.

 

9/ The role of volunteers.

This is covered in clauses 7A.1 and 7A.2 in the EBA.

7A THE ROLE OF VOLUNTEERS

7A.1 The role of volunteers in fighting bushfires and maintaining community safety and delivering high quality services to the public in remote and regional areas and in integrated stations, is not altered by this Agreement.

 

7A.2 For the avoidance of doubt, except as provided in Clause 60- Peer Support, nothing in this agreement shall prevent volunteers in the CFA from providing the services normally provided by such volunteers without remuneration.

So in part A Nothing in the agreement to do with Volunteers is altered and in part B NOTHING shall prevent volunteers in the CFA etc.

What part of that don’t the previous Board or the VFBV board not understand?

 

10/ The calling in of the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission by the previous CFA board to rule on the legality of the EBA.

Why did they do this? Any problems that the EBA might pose would only affect Professional fire fighters, because (apart from Part 6, Sexual harassment), the Equal Opportunity Act does not cover volunteers.

 

11/ in light of the clause 7A.1 and 7A.2 above and the revelations about the Equal Opportunity Act not covering Volunteers, why are the Prime Minister and the Employment Minister seeking to amend the Fair Work Act to protect the CFA Volunteers when they do not need protecting because the EBA has nothing whatsoever to do with them?

 

12/ Why when the Liberal Party formed Government under Bailleau and then Napthine, did they amend the Equal Opportunity Act to cover Part 6 (Sexual harassment) and not cover volunteers under the whole Act?

 

13/ Why did the Liberal Party register the website handsoffthecfa  (now blank) on 28th April 2016 before the Federal Election was called? Why did Malcolm Turnbull become involved? Why did the VFBV employ a graphic artist who produced the hands off the CFA Posters which are available for download on their website?  These were produced on 3rd June 2016.

14/ And finally again Why did the Board refuse to give the documents of their Board Meetings to the Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry? What had they to hide? Is the whole thing a “Look over there exercise?” Was Daniel Andrews correct to sack an unresponsive board?

I leave you to ponder the answers to these Questions.

 

Even Erin Brockovitch is up with the scandal of these Fir Fighting chemicals in our environment

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4134681/environmental-campaigner-weighs-in-on-water-issue/

I see this EBA dispute as no different from the demonising of the Union movement by the Liberal Party. Their cynical use of a group of ordinary people who only want to help their communities is a disgrace. They pretend to care about volunteers but the most damning thing about their actions is that when in Government they amended the Equal Opportunity Act to cover volunteers for only one part.

 

They only care about Occupational Health and Safety when they can get political advantage from it. They certainly don’t care about the CFA volunteers and have tricked them big time.

Meanwhile Liberal Dog whistle politics about the Unions go on apace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Some more Pertinent Facts about the CFA/UFU Dispute in Victoria.

  1. Wow! The depth of research here is staggering! Great work! Must also commend you on looking beneath the headlines to find the truth.

  2. Thanks Matt, I have a couple of rules when I hear a press statement or a series of press statements. The first thing is I have to verify what has been said and the second is to try and be as objective as possible about the facts which I discover. There are a variety of ways to go about verification of information. It’s a bit like an auditor checking books. Do this and that add up and why don’t they add up. The problem we have as a society (in my honest opinion) is that we don’t have a critical way of looking at things. That is why I try and put so many links into the pieces I write. It’s just not my idea to convince anyone of anything. Sure I voice my opinions but I like to point to the actual things I have read for people to make up their own minds.

  3. totally agree

    This is just a cheap stunt at the expense of the safety and welfare of CFA volunteers

    I want to see the Sun Herald print stickers that say “In case of fire, no UNION THUGS welcome”

    People can have them on their homes and cars to show how they distrust evil unionists!

    • Hmmm, I don’t think this article means what you think it means… I may be wrong but I think the overal “vibe” of the article is more along the line of Volunteers having been taken for a ride by political scoundrels… not sure there’s a need for “No Union thugs welcome” stickers either. These are firefighters we’re talking about, not CFMEU members picketing Myers building sites.

      • Mike You may not understand what you are talking about but rest assured that I do, I am a CFA volunteer and I am sick and tired of the VFVB the Liberal party and the Sun Herald press telling lies and dividing my CFA along political lines.

        There are some 60,000 volunteers and 1200 brigades, to imagine that somehow we all agree on politics and unions is sheer insanity, that is why CFA has a NO POLITICS rule that is very clearly laid out for all members.

        Paid staff are allowed to be members of the UFU, that is their right, Volunteers are supposed to be represented by the VFVB but sadly that organization has become a branch of the Liberal party, leaving ordinary volunteers like myself without any support.

        If people are so keen to hate union members then they can put their homes where their allegiances lie, if they hate unions and unionists then make a stand and say “No Union Firefighters allowed here”

        For myself I am happy to have any firefighter union or volunteer come to my aid in an emergency
        I am happy to work with them both

    • To cut to the chase,

      This is what I think.

      1/ This whole thing is a Political manipulation by the Liberal party. I think they have deep roots in the CFA Volunteers who are against the Paid (and Yes Professional firefighters).

      2/ I think the Paid firefighters have a right to be safe at work. To do this they organise into a Union. They are not thugs. They are people with families who when people run away from danger they approach it. They take risks with their lives, those risks are mitigated by Personal Protective Clothing/Equipment and the other work related appliances they have at their disposal. They have a right to discuss their safety with their employers. They are not precious, they are cautious. They are normal.

      3/ The metro area of Melbourne is covered by 3200 (approx) career/paid/professional fire fighters. 2200 of them in the MFB and about 1000 in the CFA. About half and half CFA/MFB coverage. That presupposes to me that the CFA part is about 1000 plus paid (etc) firefighters short.

      4/ Just because someone has been a volunteer for 30 years means nothing. What means something is the competencies that that person has in their approach to fighting a fire. many of the volunteers just don’t have the competencies that the Paid (etc) firefighters have. Not because they are not interested or lazy or think they are too good, but because there is not enough money, time and wherewithall to train all of them in the competencies they might require on the fireground. One of these is BA (Breathing Apparatus).

      5/ The whole of the CFA and VFBV has been infiltrated by the Liberal party machine. Even The minister, Jane Garrett fell for the bullshit the Liberals have fed the VFBV and the CFA.

      6/ It is a prerequisite that when you bargain, you bargain with good faith. The Fair Work organisation found that the CFA Board didn’t bargain with good Faith.

      7/ The issues that the VFBV have been on about have been in the wind for 10 years yet not one of their ridiculous claims have come to pass.

      8/ I put a submission into the Senate Inquiry. The timeline was as follows. The issue of the CFA/UFU dispute and the way the Liberals wanted to “fix” it was referred to the Senate committee on 1st September 2016. Submissions closed on 12th September 2016. I put my submission in on 11th September 2016. My submission was put on the Senate Web site as submission 319 of 321 at 4.09pm on the last day of the inquiry. Yet Brad Battin, The Liberal member for Gembrook, posted his submission to the Inquiry on 13th September and the VFBV submission was sent to the inquiry on 14th September 2016. Both after submissions were supposed to have closed. Also both these submissions were in the first 100 on the Senate web site. Tell me that that isn’t manipulated? All I did was provide evidence that the Liberal party of Victoria had instigated the web site Handsoffthecfa.com.au. I also said it was a cynical political manipulation.

      9/ This whole exercise has been a protection racket to divert the Volunteers away from the egregious manipulation of another Parliamentary Inquiry. That of the Fiskville training facility, where with a casual disregard for health and Safety over years the CFA Board systematically ignored the Health and Safety of it’s volunteers.

      10/ The Liberal party of Australia are a disgrace to the Human race.

    • Well written matt, very informative. Too many people were manipulated and taken for a long ride. It’s great the truth is slowly coming out and people have realised that it was all a political stunt at the expense of volunteers and proffesional firefighters. The amount of division and mental stress that has been caused is irreversible. Some people need to be held accountable for their actions. Brad Batton is one that comes to mind. battoff is a disgrace. A cfa volunteer who probably hasn’t turned out since he completed minimum skills.

  4. No problem with your comments on Fiskville. The rest of your commentary is typical of someone with no understanding of the CFA. Your interpretation of the EBA is flawed, and some of your “facts” are anything but. Examples I hear you say? Fine. There are as you stated 36,000 operational volunteers – there are also close to 30,000 non operational vols who preform vital roles in support of those vols on the fire ground. So in fact VFBV do support 60,000 + volunteers. Also in terms of training (and skills maintenance),there are more Vols trained and qualified in B.A. than there are career firefighters. Their skills are maintained on the same basis as the career staff and this is easily established by referring to CFA WebTrain. You say clause 7A “The role of volunteers in fighting bushfires and maintaining community safety and delivering high quality services to the public in remote and regional areas and in integrated stations, is not altered by this Agreement.” Yet clause 35.4 states “All employees covered by this agreement shall only report to operational employees under this agreement or at the rank of DCO or CO when responding to fire alarms or incidents under this agreement except in the case where the incident is a level 3 multi-agency incident or to a CFA/MFB incident controller at an incident.” So therefore when you have a Vol acting in one of the 3 roles under the Incident Controller – Division Commander, Sector Commander or Strike Team Leader, who are trying to fight a bushfire, a career firefighter will arrive on scene and not take direction from one of these people because they are a Vol. Yep that doesn’t effect a Vol at all……I can do this all day if you want.

    • Hi David,

      you seem to have entirely missed the point.

      The VFBV and their minions in the CFA have concocted this dispute for at least the last 10 years. In the Senate submissions there is a Letter attachment from the VFBV which was dated 2006 and contains the same tired old stuff about the UFU “Taking over” the CFA.
      http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=b02deab2-9efe-4780-9e51-86b68d953921&subId=414545
      It is on VFBV letter head. When the 2010 EBA came along the VFBV did exactly the same thing.

      http://www.vfbv.com.au/index.php/links/item/12-eba2010

      This EBA they managed to get the Liberal party on side at exactly the same time that a Double Dissolution Election was called and that the report on Fiskville was about to be tabled to the Governor of Victoria. A report which showed the absolute atrocious attitude of the CFA Board towards ALL of their employees.

      A Board which refused, under Subpoena from the Parliamentary Inquiry to produce Board documents (In an effort to understand when the board knew of contamination at Fiskville).

      What were they hiding? Why did they refuse to meet with Brian Potter when he wanted to know answers about Fiskville?

      No wonder Andrews sacked such a useless bunch.

      You say that I do not understand the CFA. Well that may be so. By the evidence of some of the volunteers it’s not a hard proposition to understand the CFA. One of them said It’s about putting “wet stuff on hot stuff.” I actually think I might have a better understanding than him.

      What I have refrained from in my two articles on this topic is to attribute blame to anyone but the Liberal party.

      You seem to be one of the people who has been duped by the Liberal party line. Don’t you know they don’t give a brass razoo about Volunteers? I have found CFA operational orders reducing training which occured under the former Liberal Government. They re announced the upgrade of 60 fire stations which the Labor party had already set a budget for as a result of the Royal Commission.

      You can argue till the cows come home about clauses in the EBA. However you would waste your time when the fair Work commissioner said there were no contentious clauses in the EBA and the CFA sought to re-ignite issues which had already been worked through and agreed. And when the present Chief officer said that he had no problem with being able to control his available Staff under the EBA.

      The VFBV in my opinion are a reckless organisation because they headed for the courts when they are funded by the Public. Their pathetic fundraising attempt would not have paid legal costs for more than three days.

      I will leave you with this idea. If the UFU have been going to “Take Over” the CFA since 2006 (I actually suspect it’s longer) what has materially happened to the working conditions of volunteers, where they have lost their independence? I put it to you that nothing has changed in the last 10 years and that nothing will change in the next.

      What I am concerned about in all of this is the politicisation of the issue by the Liberal party.

      Oh and did you know the same fire fighting Foams, A and B were used by the RAAF and that the Federal liberal Government are already in damage control mode with the issue of ground water and ground contamination adjacent to these sites. One wonders when the young men who used them in the RAAF will start to have their health effects exhibited?

      This is and was never about an EBA. It’s about Story telling to make people look elsewhere.

      Oh and about the BA training. My facts are informed by career firefighters who have contacted me with numerous stories which show the Lack of training of CFA Volunteers. In most cases they have provided proof of the incidents. Incidents where Life has been threatened. However as I said above, I don’t want to inflame an already overly HOT situation.

      So I am not going to take you up on your challenge to “do this all day if you want”.

      Oh and why you are considering all of the above, as an aside, you might like to ask the Liberal Party why they took down the website, handsoffthecfa.com.au?

      • Vince, you have my email address, I am a Vol in my 38th year and I am a Group Officer. If you really want to get what’s going on, get in touch.

    • David the wording of your quote and the clause numbers seem to be different from the ones in the agreement.

      “Yet clause 35.4 states “All employees covered by this agreement shall only report to operational employees under this agreement or at the rank of DCO or CO when responding to fire alarms or incidents under this agreement except in the case where the incident is a level 3 multi-agency incident or to a CFA/MFB incident controller at an incident.”

      ==================================================================

      36.4. All employees covered by this agreement shall only report to
      operational employees under this agreement or at the rank of
      DCO or CO when responding to fire alarms or incidents under this
      agreement.

      https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Documents/Submissions/2016/2016_UFU-proposed-Operational-EBA-June2016_Version_17_2_71405.pdf

      ==================================================================

      Have you actually read and understood the entire EBA document or are you arguing as someone repeating the propaganda spread by the VFVB Sun Herald and Liberal party?

      • Hi David,

        In response to

        “Vince, you have my email address, I am a Vol in my 38th year and I am a Group Officer. If you really want to get what’s going on, get in touch.”

        I would be delighted to engage with you and “really Get what is going on”. However I originally put up this blog and the other one so that people could make up their own minds about the Evidence put before them. To do that I engaged in a huge amount of reading. And you will notice that I put links to the documents I have read. A huge amount of people have read my blog and I stand by everything I have said.

        Having an open mind however I am willing to debate some of the issues with you which you say are not facts and that I don’t have an understanding of the CFA.

        Lets debate our differences in the public arena.

        I am willing to do that if you are.

        A word of caution however. Please do not bring to this blog any allegations against individuals. If you think that anyone is guilty of an offence against any Victorian or Commonwealth Statute, take that to the relevant authorities.

        Please also remember that when you mention Union you are discussing the collective not the individual.

        With those codicils in place I welcome your input.

        Perhaps we could start with my Questions about the handsoffthecfa website and what you know about that? Were there any discussions between the VFBV and the Liberal Party of Victoria regarding the site?

        Followed by the generation of the handsoffthecfa posters on the morning of Friday 3rd June 2016 by the VFBV . 2 days before the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull addressed a gathering of VFBV and CFA members in the city of Melbourne. What logistics were in play to have a printer print these posters in one day before the rally?

        What were the discussions between the VFBV (if any) and the Liberal party of Victoria and the Prime Ministers Political Staff to arrange the meeting on 5th June? Given that the Election had been called on 8th may and the Prime Ministers schedule would have been full from day one of the campaign?.

        Please refute my assertion that the Volunteers in the CFA have been cynically and politically used by the Liberal Party of Victoria to assist them in their Union bashing activities?

        Please explain to me why there were 14 areas of dispute between the CFA Board and the UFU in the EBA negotiations, just before the Board were sacked and when the VFBV put their submission into the Senate Inquiry, there were over 50 areas of dispute?

        Finally (in this tranch of Questions), Can you tell me why the CFA Board refused to provide Board papers under Subpoena from the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fiskville?

        Those are the matters which I understand are the politics behind the dispute.

        Your turn David

        Regards

        Vince.

    • David Cooper,

      I waited all day for you to respond to my agreement with you to debate the EBA and my Understanding of it.

      I waited in vain it would seem..

      However I have reread your comments about my understanding of the EBA and your understanding of the EBA as well.

      On the contrary, and with 38 years as a Volunteer under your Belt in the CFA, you seem not to Understand what the CFA is all about.

      Let me enlighten you.

      The CFA is an organisation made up of two types of firefighter. Ones which are employed on a full time basis and those which are Volunteers.

      The ones which are Employees are Paid and the ones which are volunteers are not paid.

      This is a crucial fact to understand.

      An EBA is an Enterprise bargaining agreement which is made between the Employer (THE CFA) and the Employees (Which are represented by the Union).

      EBA’s are only made under the fair work act and the only people who had standing in any dispute were the parties to the agreement.

      An EBA is a contract between the parties. In effect it has nothing to do with Volunteers. I have to restate they are NOT paid.

      Clauses 7A.1 and 7A.2 make that abundantly clear.

      You use clause 35.4 as an exception to that rule. But you are entirely wrong. For the following reasons. The full clause copied from the 17.4 version of the EBA is appended below.

      WORK ORGANISATION

      35.4 All employees covered by this agreement shall only report to operational employees under this agreement or at the rank of DCO or CO when responding to fire alarms or incidents under this agreement except in the case where the incident is a level 3 multi-agency incident or to a CFA/MFB incident controller at an incident.

      All employees covered by this agreement shall only report to operational employees under this agreement or at the rank of Deputy Chief Officer or Chief Officer when responding to fire alarms or incidents under this agreement.

      Note the word employees. And in reality this is where there would be a full time presence. except Where there would be a Level three multi-agency incident (such as Black Saturday) or to a CFA/MFB incident controller at an incident.

      This clause in my view is entirely reasonable as paid employees want to report to other paid employees, but it doesn’t exclude Level 3 Incident (Volunteer) controllers.

      In reality where would a full time employee have to be under the control of a volunteer?

      You also said.

      “So therefore when you have a Vol acting in one of the 3 roles under the Incident Controller – Division Commander, Sector Commander or Strike Team Leader, who are trying to fight a bushfire, a career firefighter will arrive on scene and not take direction from one of these people because they are a Vol.”

      But you didn’t read the clause correctly.

      except in the case where the incident is a level 3 multi-agency incident or to a CFA/MFB incident controller at an incident.

      So in those cases the clause uses the exception (to Employees reporting to employees) and so your premis that they can’t report to Volunteers acting as Division Commander, Sector Commander or Strike team Leader is entirely incorrect. They can because it’s an exception.

      Could I make a suggestion that the English language is a rich and diverse one. To understand complex contractual clauses it’s a good idea to read the words and also look at the punctuation and if your still having trouble ask an expert.

      I also wish you to clarify your comments about BA and training for this competency.

      I understand that there are two BA certificates which can be attained by a firefighter. A Structural Breathing Apparatus one and one which involves non structure, such as Car fires, grass fires and for non search and rescue criteria.
      It is my understanding that the Professional firefighters in CFA and MFB have 100% coverage for both.

      What is that coverage for the Volunteers. as you have 36,000 “operational” volunteers what is the percentage coverage for Both types of BA?

      I really do look forward to your engaging David, I don’t think that a senior CFA officer would make the statements he had made and then hide behind anonymity.

      With Regards

      Vince.

  5. Congratulations Vince again, it is obvious now to me it may have been a “brilliant political tactic” arguably securing Turnbull government by 1 seat for the moment. .But like all of the Coalition’s tactics they have repercussions elsewhere eg. Ashby -> Slipper, Pyne, Brough and Ashby etc. [more at another time], Kathy Jackson[$1.4 million charges] -> Craig Thomson[5,000 charges], Pyne, Lawler, Abbott, Brandis etc. more at [another time], Justin Gleeson SC -> Brandis shot himself in the foot anyone doubting this should look at the video of the Senate Committee on the 14/10/16 and decide who is truthful[for me it is obvious Gleeson !][more to come], Professor Triggs,again Brandis did same self-harm. Macdonald’s and O’Sullivan’s behaviour was a disgrace at both Trigg’s and Gleeson’s appearances. It is an embarrassment to me being a Queenslander that those two continually make such gooses of themselves.
    In my opinions now with CFA dispute grubby tactics the harm is done to the property holders etc. of Victorians with the fire season obviously here. I note Shorten in parliament recently referred to Sarah Henderson as the “temporary member” for Corangamite.

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