Battle stations ahead on CFA split plan

Trying again: Emergency Services Minister James Merlino faces more acrimony over the state government's plan to split the CFA.

Trying again: Emergency Services Minister James Merlino faces more acrimony over the state government's plan to split the CFA.

The state government is likely to face as much acrimony over its plan to split the CFA as is involved in the dispute that the plan aims to resolve.

The plan has been put forward by the state government to resolve its long-running dispute with paid firefighters, represented by the United Firefighters Union, over a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

The plan aims to circumvent new federal legislation that has so far stymied the dispute’s resolution because it prevents a new EBA from disadvantaging CFA volunteers.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) south-west representative Owen O’Keefe, of Winslow, has doubts about whether the government’s plan will pass through state parliament.

Mr O’Keefe said the plan left the future uncertain for CFA volunteers at integrated brigades such as Warrnambool.

He said the first priority of the VFBV would be to lobby Upper House Member for Western Victoria James Purcell, to oppose the plan.

Mr Purcell, whose Upper House vote is crucial to the plan’s success, said he had a number of concerns about the plan.

Those concerns included a right of veto by the planned new Fire Rescue Victoria organisation for paid firefighters over the new CFA volunteer body, he said.

His other concerns about the plan included how many CFA volunteers would walk away because of the split and how the new CFA volunteer body would operate without any paid staff.

United Firefighters Union Warrnambool delegate Troy Cleverley said he expected the government had secured the numbers to get the plan passed.

“If the government did not have the Upper House numbers, it would not have made this announcement,” Mr Cleverley said.

He said CFA volunteers had nothing to fear from the split.

He also said the proposed new EBA for paid firefighters would not mean they would take a leading role at fires at which both volunteers and paid firefighters attended.

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