New South Wales firefighters will spend time in central Victoria to cover positions at the Bendigo Fire Station in a move that highlights a state shortage, says a CFA firefighter. Country Fire Authority firefighter Travis Harris said fire services were frustrated that the state government had failed to deliver an extra 342 full-time firefighters promised to the CFA in the wake of Black Saturday.
“The CFA was promised 342 extra firefighters by 2016, with 90 new firefighters being trained each year to build numbers and cover requirements,” he said.
“Instead the Napthine government has frozen the recruiting of career firefighters and volunteers, and has cancelled planned training courses.”
New South Wales firefighters have been called on to cover positions in Bendigo as local fire crews are deployed to Mildura. Mildura crews have been deployed to help battle the Hazelwood coal mine fire at Morwell. Mr Harris said firefighters were also disappointed with the political spin being used to cover up the shortage of staff and equipment.
However the Federal Court of Australia has thrown out a claim from the United Firefighters Union against the CFA for alleged breaches of a 2012 operational staff agreement. Victorian Bushfire Response minister Kim Wells welcomed the decision. He said the decision would provide CFA with managerial discretion to determine its staffing levels.
“This is a convincing win for CFA and ensures staffing levels will not be dictated to by the UFU,” he said.
“The Federal Court ruled in favour of the CFA which argued that the right to determine the number of staff it employed was a matter for the CFA and was not at the whim of the union.
“This decision is about allowing the CFA the ability to match its resources with the demands for its services, providing CFA management with discretion to deploy services where they are needed to ensure the safety of all Victorians.
“The previous Victorian Labor government heavily influenced the outcome of the previous enterprise bargaining agreement, which has now been proven to contain unenforceable provisions deemed to be invalid and unlawful.”