MEMBER for Bendigo Lisa Chesters believes career and volunteer firefighters should have the right to view changes to the Fair Work Act before they are introduced into the federal parliament later this month.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised to introduce legislation in the first week of parliament amending the Fair Work Act in an attempt to end the long-running dispute between the CFA and United Firefighters Union.
The government has yet to commit to giving Labor MPs a briefing on the changes.
Ms Chesters said the decision meant she would not be able to discuss the policy with local career and volunteer firefighters.
“If it’s tabled without first being released, it’s unlikely I will be able to talk locally with firefighters about the changes,” she said.
“There are still so many questions about what changes they will make. Will it impact on other emergency services? Is it potentially unconstitutional?
“It’s unusual to make such a change to the Fair Work Act based on one agreement. Can we expect it to happen over and over?”
Senator Michaelia Cash wrote a letter to the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief executive promising to stop enterprise bargaining agreements from impacting the operations of volunteer emergency services.
The amendment could be tabled in parliament as early as August 30.
The new CFA board endorsed the EBA last week, but the VFBV stated it had not been consulted and their concerns were ignored. The CFA board disagreed, saying “extensive” consultation with the VFBV had taken place.
Despite being a state issue, the Coalition attempted to drag the ongoing dispute into the recent federal election campaign. The promise to amend the Fair Work Act was their response to the issue.
Senator Cash said the opposition will be given a briefing.
“As per the usual processes of successive governments, the opposition will be offered a briefing on the government’s proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act at the appropriate time,” she said.
Senator Cash said “if necessary the government will intervene in the Fair Work Commission” to prevent the EBA from coming into effect, which she described as a “union power grab”.
The EBA would give more operational power to the firefighters’ union, which claims it needs more control over worker protection after the Fiskville training cancer cluster and Hazelwood mine fire.
The former CFA board resigned in response to the agreement, which also includes a clause requiring seven professional firefighters from integrated stations be sent to fires.