CFA volunteer body withdraws Supreme Court action
THE body representing CFA volunteers, Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV), last week announced they were ceasing their Supreme Court action over the current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) with the CFA.
The EBA will now be put to a vote of career firefighters for approval, and then be submitted to the Fair Work Commission for approval.
In a press release from the VFBV, stating the reasons for withdrawal of the state Supreme Court action, it said, in part: “VFBV has successfully campaigned for and achieved a change to the Federal Fair Work Act that protects volunteers and ensures the volunteer nature of CFA cannot be undermined by an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement between CFA and the UFU.
“The changes to the Fair Work Act apply to the current EBA negotiations and also all future CFA EBAs.
“The change to the federal laws (Fair Work Act) now achieves what VFBV have been seeking from the Victorian Supreme Court.”
In dropping the action, the VFBV said they will continue to monitor ongoing developments, and did not rule out future actions at a federal level, depending on how things progress.
Mary Anne Egan, from VFBV District 23 Council who represents the volunteers from the North East area, explained the rationale for this decision.
“VFBV sought the Victorian Supreme Court action because of the impact the EBA would have on volunteers,” she said. “It was the only option available at that time. “However, just as a change of wind direction on the fire-ground can turn a flank attack to a head attack of a fire, requiring firefighters to change their tactics, VFBV has moved from the state based action to the federal arena with the passing of the amendment to the Fair Work Act.
“The federal Fair Work Act Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill was passed into law on Monday, October 10 by the Parliament of Australia and signed off by the Governor General.
“By winning the protection of the federal legislative change, we have delivered on our promise to ensure impacts on volunteers are deemed unlawful.
“Therefore, we have been able to discontinue our Victorian Court action.”
She went on to say: “This landmark decision will protect volunteers; the changes will make it unlawful for clauses in an EBA to interfere with an organisation’s ability to manage its volunteers.
“It will render illegal clauses which have the effect of limiting the role, operations and support of emergency services volunteers.
“It means that we will have a place at the Fair Work Commission and we will turn our attention to preparations for this.
“It’s most welcoming to note that this federal law applies to the current CFA EBA negotiations and to all future CFA EBAs.
“Should we need it, we will welcome the assistance of the Federal Government and their lawyers.”