FARMERS fear the Victorian Government risks gutting the Country Fire Authority to create a larger Metropolitan Fire Brigade under a radical new plan to solve the bitter industrial dispute engulfing the CFA and United Firefighters Union by splitting the rural fire service into two separate entities.
Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke told Treasurer Tim Pallas the farmer group had major concerns over the potential impact the plan would have on rural communities, including the slashing of CFA resources and a blow out in the Fire Services Property Levy.
“Farmers are worried that any split in the CFA would cripple the volunteer service, creating a second class organisation that is under-resourced and understaffed,” he said.
“While a slick, new MFB will have the benefit of paid full-time staff with union backing, there is a real risk the volunteer CFA will suffer from a lack of resourcing, staff training, equipment, recognition and coordination of different programs, ultimately impacting emergency response times.”
The Victorian Government said the reforms will allow the Country Fire Authority to concentrate on promoting, supporting and advancing the interests of volunteers and the communities they serve.
A key component of these reforms includes new laws to give all firefighters equal access to compensation for cancers contracted while in the line of duty.
The government said this means all firefighters will have greater certainty in being able to access compensation benefits for specified cancers.
Under the government’s package of reforms, CFA will receive new equipment, more funding and a structure to better support volunteers and staff.
More in next week's Country News.