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CFA/UFU EBA Agreement (2010)

CFA union deal a setback for volunteering

CFA’s newly signed industrial agreement significantly disadvantages CFA volunteers, and yet was concluded without consultation with the volunteers. The briefing below has gone to all Victorian State MPs.

Attn: Victorian State MPs - Thursday, 9 September 2010 
CFA union deal a setback for volunteering

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) representing Victoria’s 60,000 CFA volunteers is concerned that the CFA’s newly signed enterprise bargaining agreement with the firefighters’ union is a major setback for Victoria’s volunteer fire fighting resource.

This industrial deal significantly disadvantages volunteers and was concluded without reference to them, departing from the CFA’s signed commitment to involving volunteers in decisions that affect them.

The industrial agreement goes beyond normal union matters such as pay and conditions, and seeks to regulate CFA operations and management of other staff and volunteers.

In making this deal, CFA has committed itself to processes and practices that should relate to the 1% of their workforce the agreement covers, yet inextricably impacts heavily on another 97% (the CFA volunteers) who have had no say and, it would seem, no rights.

The CFA’s deal with the union puts restrictions on volunteers by;

  • Controlling and restricting volunteer training arrangements
  • Including a clause designed to prevent volunteers making submissions on issues involving them
  • Preventing the use of paid firefighters on day shift allocation to support volunteer brigades, unless it is part of a progression to a 24 hour staffed fire station, whether the community needs it or not
  • Blocking experienced volunteers and other suitable industry candidates from entering paid employment with CFA in jobs they are qualified and experienced to do.

The industrial agreement represents another hurdle in the path for access to and adequacy of training for volunteers, endorses a push towards more paid staff firefighters simply to add to union membership and is a departure from the Volunteer Charter, in which Government and CFA agreed to involve volunteers in any decision which affects them.

The Volunteer Charter was signed the Premier, Police and Emergency Services Minister and CFA Chairman in October 2008 to much fanfare.

VFBV wrote to the CFA, Minister and Premier in February 2010, listing 12 points of concern with the enterprise bargaining negotiations that were then under way, but volunteers were still excluded from having their voice heard.

CFA’s vast volunteer fire fighting resource has proven itself to be both professional and irreplaceable.

VFBV stresses that if the state is to retain that protection, there must be greater priority and investment given to maintaining and building CFA volunteer capacity, not just in numbers but in levels of training and equipment of brigades.

The CFA’s newly signed enterprise bargaining agreement is a setback for that vital community resource.

The briefing to MPs was based on the following expert analysis of how the CFA’s industrial agreement affects volunteers.

Summary: CFA/UFU Operational Staff Enterprise Agreement 2010

The Agreement is larger in size (running to over 240 pages) than its predecessors and is a complex document spelling out not simply traditional industrial matters such as pay, expenses, leave and career structure but also seeks to regulate aspects of CFA operations and management that govern its own members, other staff and volunteers.

The common law Deed of Agreement between CFA and the UFU which is the companion agreement to the Enterprise Agreement has not been seen by VFBV – we have requested a copy but it has not as yet been received. We therefore do not know as yet the full impact of the industrial arrangements between the CFA, Government and UFU.

Consequently, this analysis is based on the Enterprise Agreement only.

After the CFA and the Government had agreed to the new arrangements with the UFU, the Minister advised in a meeting with VFBV representatives that an impact analysis of the arrangements on volunteers was available from the CFA. In a subsequent meeting between the Boards of CFA and VFBV we were advised that such an analysis had not been done. CFA CEO Mick Bourke is now preparing such an assessment and it should be available soon.

The following summary points represent our conclusions on the Agreement we have been provided.

Following these points is a more detailed analysis of the Agreement against the 12 issues we submitted to the CFA and Government in February this year concerning matters which were to be negotiated between CFA, Government and the UFU.

In Summary, we would make the following general points:

  1. There is no commitment or acknowledgement that CFA is a volunteer based organisation despite the fact that over 97% of the CFA workforce is volunteer. In fact, apart from a number of references to volunteers being in various fashions regulated by the terms of the Agreement, it is more like an MFB style agreement which of course is designed for an all-paid workforce organisation.

  2. It establishes a regime and processes for determining a host of matters that impact volunteers but excludes volunteers/VFBV from participating in those processes. The clauses and schedules dealing with training are a significant example of this.

  3. Directly impacts CFA’s capacity to provide support to volunteer brigades. For example, Clause 80 “Day Staffing” stops any future permanent allocation of day manning to support brigades. From here on, new day manning can only be used as a short interim step to full 24/7 manning.

  4. Restricts CFA’s capacity to meet its obligations. For example, it limits who can provide community education and Clauses 13 & 15 institute a regime where urgently needed actions or initiatives can be subject to very lengthy delays unless the UFU agree to such actions.

  5. This is an expensive agreement and the allocation of 342 new paid firefighters (nearly a 60% increase in paid operations staff) will add greatly to CFA’s total costs. It is unclear as to whether these addition costs will be fully met from new Government approved funding or whether savings in other areas of CFA budget will have to be made. If the latter, there are obviously concerns for volunteers and the effects it will have on volunteer support.

  6. VFBV supports genuine and informed consultation by CFA with volunteers and its paid workforce and it is right and proper that these rights are guaranteed by binding documents. However, this Agreement between CFA and UFU goes well beyond consultation and perpetuates the growth in UFU dominance in CFA management matters and attempts to exclude volunteer input and influence on matters affecting volunteers. This is best exemplified by Clause 6.2 of the Agreement which says:

6.2. No third party (except where expressly provided and excluding FWA or any court) shall have any right to interfere with the terms and conditions provided for in this agreement.

Terms and conditions within the Agreement include matters directly affecting volunteers be it training matters, day shift manning support needs or support from CSF type staff.

This summary is based on the following detailed analysis.

Detailed Assessment: CFA/UFU Operational Staff Enterprise Agreement 2010

In its letter(s) to the Chairman and CEO on this matter VFBV made the following over-arching points:

  • VFBV remains committed to a volunteer based CFA organised on the current integrated model of volunteers and paid staff.

  • Reiterated VFBV’s very strong view that for this model to deliver the best outcomes for the people of Victoria there must be greater organisational priority and investment given to maintaining and building CFA volunteer capacity across the state.

  • That this included ensuring that there are no industrial barriers or restrictions to achieving this aim.

  • VFBV also stated their belief that any relevant industrial agreements and paid staff position descriptions should recognise and acknowledge the community based volunteer nature and organisation of CFA.

  • VFBV specifically highlighted the fact they do not seek to in any manner interfere in the lawful negotiations between CFA and any union on matters pertaining to the employee-employer relationship under the relevant industrial relations legislation where such matters do not impinge on legitimate volunteer interests.

[Note: Letters were sent to the Premier and Minister on 26 February noting VFBV concerns about the impact on volunteers by and arising from sections of UFU industrial agreements. This correspondence included a copy of our letter to the CFA detailing our over-arching concerns and the 12 points of our submission (listed below). Despite persistent follow-up by VFBV with the Premier, Minister and CFA, there was no consultation/discussion with VFBV or written response on these issues prior to the CFA concluding and Government agreeing to the new industrial arrangements with the UFU in late August 2010.]

In the letter to CFA, VFBV made the following submission regarding the CFA-UFU Operational Staff Agreement:

1) Scope of Agreement: Limit any inappropriate scope of agreement by including introductory clause: ‘Nothing in this agreement will limit or prevent in anyway whatsoever the recruitment, training, deployment, utilization and activities of CFA Volunteers and other emergency volunteers by the CFA in meeting its statutory duties and obligations.’

RESULT: No such or similar clause is contained within the Enterprise Agreement. CFA is a community/volunteer based emergency service organisation. Over 97% of the CFA workforce is made up of volunteers. Paid operations staff comprises less than 1% of CFA workforce and yet they are increasingly a dominant force over CFA management. This clause would have provided clear and unambiguous protection of volunteers and volunteerism in the CFA from industrial interference as both a matter of principle and law. Our concern is why this didn’t happen and what its exclusion signals for the future.

2) Objectives of Agreement: In the Objectives clause of agreement add the following words to the first sentence: ‘including the maintenance and growth of CFA volunteer and general community capacity to plan, prepare, respond and recover from fire and other emergencies.’

RESULT: No such or similar clause is contained within the Enterprise Agreement. CFA is a community/volunteer based emergency service organisation. It would be appropriate that a key paid staff industrial agreement not only recognised this fact and was clear that a principal role of paid staff was to optimise volunteer and community capacity. Again, our concern is why this didn’t happen and what its exclusion signals for the future.

It is worth noting that under the Application of Agreement, Clause 6, there is a curious new clause:

6.2. No third party (except where expressly provided and excluding FWA or any court) shall have any right to interfere with the terms and conditions provided for in this agreement.

The wording is such that it would be used to prevent volunteers/VFBV making successful representations on those matters which impact volunteers either in the Enterprise Agreement or flowing from it (whether intended or not).

3) Position Descriptions: That position descriptions attached to the Agreement be suitably amended so that the section detailing ‘Primary Purpose of Position’ incorporates the following or similar words: ‘Assist and support the maintenance and growth of CFA Volunteer and general community capacity to plan, prepare, respond and recover from fire and other emergencies’. That ‘Key Result Areas’ of those position descriptions be amended by the insertion of the following words or similar: ‘Contribute to and support the growth of CFA volunteerism and ongoing development of CFA volunteer personnel for operational and organisational performance’.

RESULT: Position Descriptions for Operations Officer and Operations Manager are contained in Schedule 11 of the Enterprise Agreement. PDs for other positions are not detailed and assumed to be the same as current. There is no commitment in any PDs in ‘Primary Purpose/Objectives of Position’ or ‘Key Result Areas’ to anything even remotely similar to the words/sentiment requested. This omission means there is no stated obligation or work focus for paid staff to support the most fundamental of CFA objectives – supporting and growing CFA Volunteerism. The inclusion of such a key organisational objective is usually standard in position descriptions.

4) Remove any impediments to Volunteer Training and improve Volunteer access to training: Noting that the issues of timing and location are pertinent matters in the effective provision of volunteer training and the need for flexible training arrangements to meet volunteer needs and circumstances, remove any clauses or provisions which act as impediments to effectively meeting volunteer training requirements including limits on the use of appropriately qualified paid sessional instructors.

RESULT: At first reading there appears to be a slight improvement in CFA’s ability to access non-employee paid trainers (including sessional instructors) when paid instructors and qualified operations staff are not available to meet volunteer training needs. However, the actual process for engaging and using non-employee paid sessional instructors seems complex and difficult to practically implement.

The relevant clause in the Enterprise Agreement (99.2.2) provides that:

a) The relevant session must be indentified in advance as part of the current training syllabus or assessment syllabus;

b) The indentified instructor is absent through sickness or other unavoidable cause;

c) It can be demonstrated that the session is of an urgent nature and must take place;

d) Other career instructors, Leading Firefighters, Station Officers, Operations Officers or volunteers (unpaid) within a 100km radius cannot deliver that urgent session and it cannot be rescheduled;

e) Then CFA can source appropriate (non-employee paid) instructors to deliver that session.

These lengthy and seemingly rigid procedures appear to effectively continue the limits on the use of non-employee paid sessional trainers previously imposed by the UFU and thereby limit CFA’s capacity to flexibly meet volunteer training support requirements. This has been a long standing concern of volunteers which we sought to have addressed in our submission to CFA and Government. We will query CFA on the process they intend to use in meeting these Enterprise Agreement procedures so as to ensure volunteer training needs are met, including volunteer friendly timetabling and location needs.

An area of further concern is the apparent restrictions on PAD instructor working hours and the consequences for after hours volunteer training. The cost implications for CFA in meeting these requirements may be a significant disincentive for CFA to schedule after hours training for volunteers.

More generally, training arrangements are regulated by:

a) Clause 26 (Contracting Out/Maintenance of Classifications) requiring that training must be delivered first and foremost by any ‘employees in the classifications in the agreement directly employed by CFA’ except volunteers providing services as volunteers without remuneration;

b) Clause 93 (Improved Skills Enhancement and Training Delivery Arrangements) which provides for “The joint consultative process to review a broad range of training and development related matters will continue”. Specific matters for this CFA-UFU consultative arrangement includes “Processes to enable career personnel to provide competency based training and assessment for volunteers”. There is no role for volunteers/VFBV to be part of this consultation process;

c) Schedule 5 “Training Framework” appears binding on volunteers despite the fact that there has been no discussion or consultation with volunteers/VFBV. Clause 93.2 specifies that the parties (UFU & CFA) will revise this schedule within the first 6 months of the Enterprise Agreement. Again, there is no role for volunteers /VFBV in this stated process; and,

d) Schedule 6 “Joint Statement on Operational Training and Assessment” by CFA/UFU, states that all firefighters (career or volunteer) must have the competencies and skills to undertake the tasks required of them and that the operational training standards must be consistent across the CFA. The competencies, skills and training standards are imposed under the processes spelt out in the Enterprise Agreement. Under the heading ‘Training Delivery’ in schedule 6 (second dot point) it states: “Where paid operational training is delivered outside the AFC based Framework such training must be delivered and assessed by a process agreed by the parties” (ie. CFA and UFU). The effect of this is to give UFU further control over training.

The appointment of instructors continues to be industrially regulated and limited by Clause 99 ‘Terms and Conditions of Employment for Instructors’. Under this clause the UFU continue to have a dominant role in determining the eligibility of candidates for instructor positions, the criteria for selecting appointees as well as membership of Instructor Interview Panels. Despite the fact that training is a fundamentally important issue for volunteers we have no representation in consulting or participating in these matters. Clause 6.2 (set out above) seems to make it a breach of the Enterprise Agreement if we were to be so engaged.

5) Enable lateral entry/secondment of suitably qualified candidates to any level of rank or role within CFA without industrial impediment: To maximize CFA effectiveness in and through local communities remove impediments to lateral entry/secondment for qualified volunteers and other qualified people into any level of rank or role within CFA for which the CFA determines they are competent; that relevant volunteer experience and qualifications and recognition of prior learning based on experience be part of any relevant CFA qualification assessment regarding lateral entry.

RESULT: In a nutshell, restrictions on secondment and lateral entry remain rather than being a matter for CFA management selecting best available candidate for a position.

Clause 28 “Secondment and Lateral Entry” sets out the regulation of and procedures for secondment or lateral entry to positions of Leading Firefighter, Station Officer or above. Secondment/lateral entry to positions below Leading Firefighter is prevented by the Enterprise Agreement.

Under the Clause, CFA firefighters shall be given priority for secondments and appointments/promotions to vacancies.

In the event there is a need to second to a long term vacant position (for up to 2 years) and there is no (suitable) candidate available within CFA paid firefighting staff, secondees can be secured externally provided they are an operational firefighting employee of another recognised government fire service in Australia or New Zealand. They must also hold the same or equivalent rank as that of the position to which they are seconded. Qualified and experienced volunteers and firefighters from private industry are ineligible for secondment.

Where permitted by the Enterprise Agreement, lateral entry to a position can only occur where the position has been advertised at least twice internally in CFA to operational firefighters. If there is no suitable applicant, CFA shall second someone to the position under the secondment rules (above). If there is still a vacancy at the end of any secondment period, the position has to be advertised internally once more. If there is no internal applicant, the secondee can be offered the position. If the secondee refuses the position (or in the case there was no secondment was secured) only then may the CFA seek external applications.

The actual lateral entry rules set out in the Enterprise Agreement are that:

a) Lateral entry is restricted to positions of Leading Firefighter, Station Officer or above;

b) Applications can only be received from operational firefighting employees of another recognised government fire service in Australia or New Zealand;

c) Any applicant must hold the same or equivalent rank as the position advertised;

d) The successful applicant will undertake a short course on CFA specific requirements and relevant skills.

Qualified and experienced volunteers are prevented from being laterally appointed to operational positions in CFA under these limitations. Operational firefighters from private firefighting services are also excluded. Even operational employees of recognised fire services are excluded if their application represents a promotion for them.

Sub Clause 99.1.2 of the Enterprise Agreement regulates the appointment, promotion or transfer of instructors “who is or was an external applicant or external appointee” to any other classification or position referred to in or covered by the Enterprise Agreement.

In full this sub clause reads:

“An instructor who is or was an external applicant or external appointee may not be appointed, promoted or transferred, and the CFA will not appoint, promote or transfer an external applicants or external appointee, to any classification or position referred to in or covered by the Agreement other than in accordance with this clause”.

Sub Clause 99.7.7 limits the lateral movement of such instructors into operational roles solely to those agreed with the UFU.

Clause 122 of the Agreement regulates lateral entry to positions of Operations Officer and Operations Manager. The provisions of this Clause require that;

a) the CFA has to demonstrate that no suitably qualified internal applicant exists;

b) the position must be advertised internally on two occasions;

c) only then proceed to either appoint an internal person who does not meet all of the requirements for appointment, or lateral entry of an external candidate.

d) If lateral entry is the selected option there is to be consultation and agreement between the parties to determine a competency based lateral entry process. If the parties cannot agree on this process then it shall be determined by Fair Work Australia (FWA). Such FWA determination shall only be effective for the life of the Bargaining Agreement.

6) Remove any impediment or limit to the provision of support to volunteers by appropriately qualified or designated paid staff: Recognising that the classification of Brigade Administrative Support Officers (BASOs) was specifically created and funded to provide administrative and organisational support for volunteer brigades, that the classification and functioning of BASOs and any similar classification be removed from the Operational Staff Agreement. Further such Operational Staff Agreement should not hinder, limit or otherwise impact on the role and function of BASOs in the provision of administrative and organisational support for volunteers. In addition to removing this matter from the operation of the subject Agreement, VFBV also submits that CFA explicitly undertake to ensure that the BASO classification is maintained and their number is expanded to enhance support for volunteers. Further, VFBV submits that CFA needs to consider deployment of other resources engaged specifically to proactively build community and volunteer capacity.

RESULT: The Enterprise Agreement contains no clause dealing with BASO or brigade support issues (excepting CSFs – see below).

Sub Clause 26.1 could be applied to limit or exclude brigade support duties performed by non-firefighters where the duties performed are also part of the prescribed duties/work of firefighters (stated as ‘classifications covered by the Agreement’). This was the UFU’s position in negotiations for the 2000 EBA, hence the reference to BASOs in the 2000 and 2002 Operative Staff EBAs.

The application of Point 1 above ran in tandem with this proposal to delete any reference to BASOs. We understand that the regulation of BASOs and other Brigade support matters may be covered by a Deed of Agreement between CFA and UFU the full text of which has not been seen.

The Bargaining Agreement still prohibits CFA from appointing Community Support Facilitators and similar classifications and positions in Clause 70.

7) Selection and deployment of suitable vehicles and equipment within CFA be determined in a timely manner according to operational requirements determined by CFA management after proper consultation with relevant paid staff and volunteers. Any express or implied limits under the Agreement on the provision and suitable deployment of vehicles and equipment lawfully declared fit for use by CFA be removed. This should not in any way negate requirements for timely and genuine consultation (but not veto) by CFA with volunteers and paid staff over operational and equipment issues including standards and deployment of such equipment. Real safety issues regarding vehicles and equipment should be strictly dealt with under relevant occupational health and safety laws and not under an industrial agreement.

RESULT: Clause 92 of the Enterprise Agreement “New Appliances and Equipment” simply provides that “The CFA will use its best endeavours to develop within the first 6 months of this agreement guidelines for the design and specifications of appliances and equipment to be used in any station”.

There seems to be an inference that the CFA and UFU already have a separate agreement on such matters applying up until now and which is to be reviewed for application in the near future but there are no statements to that effect.

In the absence of any exclusion clause, matters related to “design and specification of appliances and equipment” could be argued as matters under Clause 14 “Introduction of Change” and therefore subject to the Agreement’s “Consultative Processes” contained in Clause 13. It could also be a matter for inclusion under the “CFA / UFU Consultative Committee” established under Clause 13.2 for which the terms of reference, membership and working arrangements are yet to be negotiated by the parties. The Bargaining Agreement says they will agree on these matters within six months of the Agreement being lodged with FWA.

In any case, it is a matter that can be made subject to Clause 15 “Dispute Resolution” where change, including introduction of new appliances and equipment, can be significantly delayed because no change can occur during the dispute resolution process which extends through a series of internal procedural steps, then to Fair Work Australia and, seemingly, then to appeals that may be pursued by the UFU from any FWA decision adverse to its interests or position.

Such a matter may also be dealt under Clause 16 ‘Consultation “Officer & Disputes Regarding Consultation and Change” which, if there is not agreement, leads back to Clause 15 the dispute resolution clause. In many ways, these arrangements could be said to be a pocket veto for the UFU – one they have used in the past under similar arrangements as part of negotiations on matters both related and unrelated to a subject dispute.

This matter requires clarification and advice from CFA.

8) Remove any limit or constraint on CFA’s employment and use of appropriately qualified non firefighter community education and related support staff: Whilst noting the important role that all classifications of existing operations staff should play in community education and that the issues of timing and location are pertinent matters in the effective provision of community education, that there be no limit or constraint placed on CFA in the agreement as to the employment and deployment of community education and support officers to support and supplement volunteers carrying out community education functions as deemed necessary.

RESULT: Under the Bargaining Agreement CFA is limited and constrained in the delivery of community education on fire prevention and awareness.

Clause 71 of the Agreement “Community Education” states that the deliverers of community education on fire prevention and awareness will be career Firefighters/Station Officers and only when they are not available volunteer Firefighters/Officers.

No other classification or employee is allowed to undertake community education duties.

This Clause differentiates between community education as described above and the delivery of special community information campaigns that do not have an educational (ie training) component.

In light of the Bushfires Royal Commission it is surprising that this limitation is included in the Agreement.

9) Consultation arrangements with paid staff not to include effective veto over change or unduly delay needed changes and initiatives: Whilst supporting the need for an effective and genuine consultation and dispute resolution system such a system must not incorporate an effective veto right nor unduly delay change and initiatives deemed necessary for CFA to meet its statutory obligations and support and utilise volunteers.

RESULT: As discussed above in regard to new appliances and equipment, Clauses 13 and 15 of the Agreement enable the UFU to delay for at least a significant period of time any change or initiative by procedural means. In other words, they maintain their effective veto over needed timely change or initiatives deemed necessary for CFA to meet its statutory obligations and support and utilise volunteers.

10) Definition of employment matters under the Agreement: Explicitly, the definition of employment matters in the Operational Staff Agreement must not enable, or purport to enable, any provisions of the Agreement to constrain or limit the statutory powers and obligations of the Chief Officer and the CFA. A statement in the Agreement making this clear would be appropriate. The Agreement should be limited to core employee entitlement issues such as salaries, wages, allowances, leave entitlements and promotional opportunities. It should not seek to impact on the operational management or organisation of the CFA specified by relevant Victorian legislation.

RESULT: The reference to the ‘Definition of Employment’ as appeared in early negotiation drafts of the Agreement was excluded from the final Agreement. There is no statement or clause in the Agreement that covers this matter.

Consequently, the Enterprise Agreement’s provisions purport to be absolute and unrestricted by the statutory powers and obligations of the Chief Officer and the CFA established by Victorian Legislation (the CFA Act). In effect, this means that where there is a conflict between what’s in the Agreement (or what it authorises) registered under Federal industrial law and the powers, duties and obligations of the Chief Officer and the CFA created under Victorian law, it is a matter of constitutional legal interpretation and litigation, unless one side backs down.

As noted in this document (and there are other examples) there are a number of clauses which impact on operational management and organisation of the CFA so the constitutional legal issues are matters of consequence in the application of this Agreement in the CFA. For example, Clause 80 “Day Staffing” purports to restrict the Chief Officer and the CFA’s capacity to make staffing decisions based on operational need. A fuller discussion of Clause 80 is set out below under Point 12.

Clause 6 of the Agreement “Application of Agreement” it clearly states that the Agreement applies to and covers “all employees engaged in or performing work that is or may be performed by an employee engaged in a classification or occupation referred to in this agreement”. This is a very broad clause which when read literally means that the UFU can apply its rights and powers under the Agreement to in effect regulate the work done by non-UFU employees of CFA where there they perform work that can be characterised as the same as, similar to or could be done by classifications under the Agreement.

Under Clause 68, “Career Paths and Opportunities” Sub Clause 68.1 provides that the Enterprise Bargaining Implementation Committee (EBIC) will review in the first 12 months of the Agreement CFA’s recruitment and selection panel procedures. The resulting report will be tabled for consultation and therefore it is subject to disputes procedure if there is no agreement. In this case, FWA will be the determining body of CFA’s recruit and selection panel procedures.

11) Chief Officer and CFA must not be constrained or limited in the performance of their statutory duties by industrial agreements: Remove any purported limitation or constraint on the Chief Officer and CFA carrying out their express or implied statutory duty to review and determine all brigade, appliance and fireground staffing levels and requirements to meet CFA community service and safety obligations including the redeployment of paid staff positions to other locations as may be required (subject to suitable transfer allowances and arrangements which are an employment matter).

RESULT: Previous EBA clauses covering Board of Reference on staffing, the criteria for staffing review and new brigade staffing have been removed from this Agreement. The fate of the more powerful 2008 staffing ‘Disputes Panel’ (ie, the Merriman Disputes panel also known as the Board of Reference) set up under a separate Deed of Agreement between CFA and UFU is unknown.

Clause 27 of the Agreement, “Safe Staffing Levels” sets down for the first time in CFA the concept of a minimum number of paid staff on shift designated at the current level of 99. The location and rank of said staff is set down in Schedule 1 to the Agreement as is the number and rank of employees allocated to other (non-shift) positions. As the parties reach agreement on new staffing levels during the period of the Enterprise Agreement, both Clause 27 and Schedule 1 can be updated by mutual agreement making any new numbers on shift and their deployment fixed in law as new minimums.

Sub Clause 27.3 anticipates state government allocation of new firefighter positions to the CFA arising from the Board of Reference (Disputes Panel) under the 2008 industrial arrangements and the Bushfires Royal Commission.

There is a sentence in the sub clause that says “In particular, the parties note that the Commission’s final report makes reference at 10.6.2, to the need to increase the number of career fire fighters and integrated stations”. This seems to present that the Royal Commission made additional paid staffing a recommendation when such was not the case.

In fact, the Commission simply noted in its summary the evidence of the CFA that it intended to increase the number of urban integrated stations from 31 to 38 by 2020 and the evidence of the UFU witness (Mr Thomas) regarding the 2009 Board of Reference (Disputes Panel). The recommendations of the Board of Reference (Disputes Panel) which rejected the views and submissions of the CFA Chief Officer is of course subject to serious dispute by VFBV.

Nevertheless, Sub Clause 27.3 is the disguise under which the Government appears to have done an industrial “fix” to avoid political/industrial conflict with the UFU going in to the Victorian election by announcing that an additional 342 paid firefighters for the CFA had been approved under a four year funding package.

It is noteworthy to recall that CFA’s official submission to the Board of Reference (Disputes Panel) was that they may need up to 232 additional firefighters/officers by 2020. The Union’s position apparently totalled 684. It seems CFA, in conjunction with elements of Government, ended up making application to Government for the funding of significantly more paid firefighters than it had originally concluded may be needed by 2020.

It seems the “fix” is half what the UFU was seeking to be delivered by 2014/15 in half the time horizon submitted by the CFA. What will happen in the five years thereafter has been left for the next government, or possibly the one after that.

It is unclear exactly when or how these new paid firefighters will be recruited, trained and deployed.

There has been no consultation with VFBV on this matter despite the impact it will have on volunteers in integrated brigades and volunteer brigades to which CFA may seek to allocate 24/7 paid staff.

12) New classification of dedicated day shift firefighters: Recognising that some brigades need temporary and flexible support from paid operations staff from time to time, e.g. seasonal, day shift weekdays, to deal with temporary volunteer availability or during periods of brigade rebuilding, that a day shift fire fighter classification be created to provide such flexible as required support to brigades.

RESULT: There is no day shift classification created as requested. In fact, Clause 80 of the Agreement, “Day Staffing” kills the ability to deploy permanent day shift firefighters to volunteer brigades under the continuum.

From here on in, day shift staffing can only remain at brigades so specified in the Bargaining Agreement (that is, current arrangements noted in Schedule 1) and as an interim step to 10/14 roster staffing regardless of actual need. To implement even this step, the parties (CFA and UFU) must agree in writing to the timetable for achieving 24/7 shift manning. Thus the UFU again has veto power on new staffing of brigades – the dates / timetable covering interim day manning and progression to 10/14 shifts regardless of need. This kills a major feature of the continuum, that is to make staff support decisions based on brigade needs assessment and recognise that most brigades needing staff support only require it weekdays.

A review of existing day shift arrangements may also be provided for under the new Deed of Agreement but we are awaiting advice on this.


Read 19876 times Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2013 11:28
CFA Volunteers are the unpaid professionals of our Emergency Services. VFBV is their united voice, and speaks on behalf of Victoria's 60,000 CFA Volunteers.


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