A CFA volunteer has called for an inquiry into what he says is bullying tactics used by the government and unions to push through a major restructure to the state's firefighting service.
The new Fire Services Victoria comes into force on Wednesday but it has upset volunteers who say the Andrews Government is "hell bent" on destroying the CFA.
Volunteers Fire Brigade Victoria district five state councillor Bushfield's Greg Walcott said the volunteer organisation had lost thousands of members because of the changes, consultation had been inadequate and promises broken.
"We've lost 5000 which is equivalent of the whole SES force in Victoria in the last few years since this restructure has been mooted and developed," Mr Walcott said.
He feared more would now go with some volunteers signalling they were reconsidering their involvement in the organisation.
The resignation last week of the CFA's chief officer Steve Warrington after 40 years with the organisation was just another emergency service leader forced out by the government, Mr Walcott said.
The process has claimed too many scalps from within the CFA, Volunteers Fire Brigade Victoria president of district five and 50-plus year veteran firefighter John Mahony, of Cudgee, said.
Now Mr Walcott wants to see either the ombudsman, Work Safe or IBAC conduct an inquiry into the tactics used to get the changes through.
"They've bullied people to the point of forcing them out of their jobs and it's just not acceptable. You'd have to question the legality of it as well," he said.
"The CFA as a volunteer organisation had been world-renowned for years, and to have this dismantled is unthinkable.
"I can't see how they can get away with it, but they have."
Mr Mahony said the CFA was, without a doubt, recognised as one of the world's best firefighting organisations and the Andrews Government was "hell bent on destroying it".
"I'm not very happy really. We had a very good organisation in CFA," he said.
Mr Mahony said that while the union had its place, it was just "trying to take over the whole show".
While there were more than 50 forums attended by 1300 volunteers in Febraury, Mr Mahony said they "virtually came and told us sweet bugger all". He said most questions asked by members at those meeting couldn't be answered because decisions hadn't yet been made, and those questions still hadn't been answered.
"That's not very fair at all. We're volunteers and we play a very important role in the organisation. We just get left out," he said.
"I just wish the government would listen, but they're just not interested in the volunteer at all."
Mr Mahony said volunteers were told their CFA commanders would wear CFA uniforms but in the past few days they found out they would be in FRV uniforms.
"That's not very nice to us and it's confusing to the public," Mr Mahony said.
"It's made it difficult for us to keep working. We will still keep working, there's no doubt about that. It's the way we are."
Mr Mahony said paid CFA staff had also been told if they don't sign up to FRV it would be deemed a resignation. "That's just not right," he said.
He said the new union rules also meant the CFA chief was now answerable to FRV.
Mr Mahony said there was also a fear that eventually commanders from elsewhere would come to bushfires and try and direct volunteers despite volunteers having a better understanding of the local area.
Mr Walcott said the CFA had been told it would be a volunteer-concentrated CFA with only operational staff to be seconded but that was not the case with more than 200 employees now coming under the FRV banner.
"They've just decided to bring in all these changes at the last minute and not consult the volunteers," Mr Walcott said.
"It's just not acceptable.
"Just coming through this last summer, one of the biggest we've had, when the volunteers put their time and lives and everything on the line in a huge way and to not be respected and appreciated for what they do, it's just totally wrong."
Mr Walcott said the government's message that it was bringing fire management into the modern era was "another slap in the face for volunteers".
"CFA volunteers feel cheated. The lack of respect shown by the government is hurting many and morale is likely to drop even further," he said.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville rejected the claims and moved to assure volunteers and community of our ongoing commitment to our firefighters.
Ms Neville said the CFA chief officer was in no way answerable to FRV.
"His powers are contained in the CFA Act, and no current arrangements regarding that will change," she said.
"In addition, every seconded officer is under the command and control of the CFA chief officer, who has the power to suspend or terminate the secondment - CFA will continue to be overseen by an independent coard and the ceo/co."
"Our legislation enshrines in law the ongoing role of volunteer firefighters and the requirements of the CFA to continue to support, train and retain volunteers.
"We've backed that in with a $126 million dollar investment for the CFA to go towards critical training and equipment, and we will continue to invest in our volunteers to ensure the CFA has the funding necessary to remain a strong and sustainable agency."
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