Melbourne firefighters deal under attack

A new enterprise agreement could see Victorian firies take 196 days off work a year with full pay.A controversial $150 million firefighters pay deal that includes nearly 200 days of leave entitlements per year has been criticised for marginalising women and fostering bullying.
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In parliament on Wednesday, the opposition pulled apart the 321-page proposed Metropolitan Fire Brigade pay deal and the role of the United Firefighters’ Union.

According to the deal, during disciplinary matters CCTV can’t be used nor emails accessed without union approval and adverse findings against staff will also be wiped from records after 12 months.

“How can you support such an absurd EBA proposal that completely prevents the MFB management from enforcing basic standards of workplace discipline?” Opposition Leader Matthew Guy put to Emergency Services Minister James Merlino.

But Mr Merlino denied the agreement limited the MFB’s authority.

“The agreement has to sit alongside equal opportunity legislation, occupational health and safety legislation and in no way inhibits the powers of the chief officer of the MFB,” Mr Merlino fired back.

Opposition MP Steph Ryan highlighted a clause which excludes casual and part-time employment unless the union agrees.

“Banning part time work would actively discriminate against women trying to re-enter the work force,” she said.

“Why has your government … endorsed this sexist clause that explicitly bans part-time work and deters women from re-entering the workforce?” she asked the minister.

In February the state government launched a recruitment campaign targeting women, who make up just 3.5 per cent of operational staff according to the MFB’s latest annual report.

The proposed pay deal goes to a vote of MFB members on Friday and if it passes will be sent to Fair Work, but even if it’s endorsed, won’t last long, expiring in 2019.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner has reportedly warned against endorsing the EBA because it would perpetuate a bad culture within the brigade.

The commissioner has written a report on bullying within the state’s fire services, but the union is fighting its release through the courts.

Other emergency service unions are looking at the agreement as leverage in their own negotiations, which the Labor government said they are entitled to do.

“Anyone that is undertaking dangerous work, clearly, there should be acknowledgement and compensation for the nature of the work that’s done there,” Police Association Secretary Wayne Gatt told 3AW.

UFU Secretary Peter Marshall is defending the proposed allowances, saying they have been in place for 10 months.

“They are already being paid now. But not everyone gets (them),” he told AAP.

“We did a comparison in the building industry and it is almost the same if you add up all the leaves. All those leaves are industry standards.”

Mr Marshall says technically, firefighters could take all that leave, but they’d “be very unlucky” to have someone die in the family, be adopting someone, be a carer for a family member and be in an abusive relationship.

Mr Merlino said the 19 per cent pay rise was fair given there had been no deal in place for nearly five years.

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