Paid firefighters ‘greedy thugs’: flyer

UFU secretary Peter Marshall speaking at a rally. Picture: Justin McManus

UFU secretary Peter Marshall speaking at a rally. Picture: Justin McManus

A flyer circulated in Bendigo at the weekend, has labelled career firefighters "greedy" and "paid union thugs", in calling for donations to help Country Fire Authority volunteers' in their Supreme Court battle over a controversial pay deal.

The flyer is a further sign of the deteriorating relationship between some volunteers and paid CFA staff over a workplace agreement between management and the state's more than 800 full-time CFA firefighters.

It calls for people to show their support for "Hero CFA volunteers and your total contempt for paid union thugs".

The volunteers' association – Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria – has taken court action against the deal, which they say will undermine their role and stymie management's power, due to a union takeover.

The United Firefighters Union say the EBA will improve community and firefighter safety.

The flyer is similar to an official leaflet handed out by the VFBV, though it says it is not behind the offensive material.

The inflammatory flyer circulating in Bendigo (left) compared with the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria official fundraising leaflet.

The inflammatory flyer circulating in Bendigo (left) compared with the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria official fundraising leaflet.

The CFA board met on Monday and called on the VFBV to denounce the material and to tell its members to be more civil and respectful.

CFA chief officer Steve Warrington told Fairfax Media he was disappointed with the author of the flyer. 

"This material serves no other purpose but to exploit emotions and cause division," he said.

"I understand there has been a lot of emotion around the place lately, and I recognise people are free to express their views, however, I have become aware of a pamphlet circulated on the weekend that frankly crosses the line."

VFBV chief executive Andrew Ford said he had not been contacted by the CFA and said the flyer was a doctored version of its official material.

"It is not our brochure, it's a doctored version of our brochure. We do not know who prepared it or distributed it," Mr Ford said.

"It is disappointing to me, to any reader, I don't condone the message."

So far the fundraising drive has raised $50,000 of a targeted half a million dollars.

"We are telling our members that our fundraising is to be respectful, and we will remain non-party political."

United Firefighters Secretary Peter Marshall blamed the VFBV.

"Career firefighters are dedicated, committed professionals who put their lives on the line to keep people safe," Mr Marshall said.

"This is another unfortunate example of the VFBV's systematic vilification of career fire-fighters."

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino also called for the "disgraceful campaign of misinformation" to stop.

"This sort of flyer is divisive and disrespectful to all of the men and women around the state who put their lives on the line to keep our community safe," Mr Merlino said.

"I've spoken to both career and volunteers firefighters around the state and it's hurting them and their families.

"The CFA and UFU have reached an agreement that will not impact on volunteers."

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