CFA District 2 positive over fire services changes, while some volunteers remain wary of detail

The Bendigo Fire Station will host Fire Rescue Victoria firefighters, along with CFA volunteers, after the changes come into effect.
The Bendigo Fire Station will host Fire Rescue Victoria firefighters, along with CFA volunteers, after the changes come into effect.

Related: Dramatic overhaul for Victoria’s fire services

BENDIGO can expect few changes to the way in which fire services are delivered after the state government announced it would split the CFA and career firefighters – but some fear the devil may be in the detail.

The CFA will become a fully volunteer organisation, while a newly-created Fire Rescue Victoria will lead firefighting in Melbourne and major regional centres.

The changes will take effect at Bendigo’s integrated fire station – one of 35 across the state.

CFA District 2 operations manager Steve Smith said career and volunteer firefighters appeared positive about the plans.

“Generally, members have seen the changes positively,” he said.

“There’s still a lot detail that isn’t known.

“The changes appear to reflect the contemporary requirements of the CFA. It’s been around for a long time, and in that time expectations have changed. This is the first significant change that has taken place.

“They will still work together, and the main focus will always be on service delivery, and quality service for Victorians.”

Both CFA volunteers and Fire Rescue Victoria firefighters will continue to attend emergencies.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the changes this week, and they will require legislation from the parliament. A further $100 million in upgrades was promised for CFA brigades as part of the arrangement.

The plan will have more impact on Melbourne’s outer fringes, where volunteer CFA brigades still cover outer suburbs.

Fire Rescue Victoria will require a new enterprise bargaining agreement. The CFA has finalised its EBA with career staff, while the MFB EBA remains before the Fair Work Commission.

Volunteers have long complained that the government has not consulted them enough before making fire service announcements.

Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said there had been “a lot of consultation”, and volunteers would have further opportunities to comment as the plan made its way through parliament.

She said the changes included aspects that volunteers had been calling for.

“What will change for them is that the CFA is now a 100 per cent volunteer organisation,” Ms Allan said.

“This is something that many of the CFA people have been wanting for for a long time.

“The volunteers at the Bendigo brigade will remain co-located in that brigade. The outcome on the ground - the great work that our career and volunteer firefighters do - is really not going to change all that much.”

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria has already come out in opposition to the split, describing it as a fix to a problem that does not exist.

VFBV committee member Bill Maltby, of Castlemaine, said the firefighter EBA could make it through Fair Work without the changes – provided volunteers were not worse off.

He said there was no need for the change.

“They’re breaking up a system that does not need breaking up, all to appease the United Firefighters Union,” he said.

“The integrated fire stations model isn’t broken, so why do they need to do this. Career firefighters and volunteers work well together as it is.

“We don’t believe this is the right approach.”