Melbourne firies get generous leave deal

A new enterprise agreement could see Victorian firies take 196 days off work a year with full pay.Victorian taxpayers will fork out $150 million for a new pay deal for Melbourne firefighters that includes almost 200 days personal and other leave a year.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade firefighters will vote on the long-awaited enterprise bargaining agreement on Friday

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said technically firefighters could take all that leave but they’d have to have someone die in the family, be adopting someone, be a carer for a family member and be in an abusive relationship.

“So it is a nonsense to say they have got that much leave,” 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.”

State Emergency Services Minister James Merlino said on Tuesday the agreement cost is “in the order of $150 million and that’s fully accounted for in the budget”.

“If you’re in a burning home and you’ve got a firefighter bashing through the door to save you and your children, do you think you care what they’re paid or what allowances they receive?”

The deal reportedly includes a $1200 second language allowance and an “availability allowance” for commanders worth 5.5 per cent of their salary.

Firefighters who have been on the job for more than two years will be eligible for 99 days of personal and sick leave a year, on top of 65 days’ annual leave.

By comparison, frontline Ambulance Victoria paramedics are entitled to up to 50 days of annual leave and Victoria Police officers get 45 days.

The agreement also included provisions for 10 days of community service leave and five days of union training, which alongside the state’s 13 public holidays added up to 196 days.

The minister said it wasn’t “a massive increase in leave entitlements”.

“There are various clauses in regards to leave but to think that every firefighter would add every single one of those leave provisions in one year is just completely unrealistic,” he said.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton reportedly raised concerns with Mr Merlino and the MFB board over the deal just days before the latter endorsed it.

The commissioner has been investigating both the Country Fire Authority and MFB and its report has been tangled up in a legal bid by the United Firefighters Union to block its release.

However, details of the report were leaked to The Age which on Tuesday reported on claims of entrenched bullying, “everyday sexism” and a “hyper-masculine culture” in the MFB.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Brad Battin wants Friday’s vote delayed until the report is released publicly in full.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy called the deal a “stinking, rorting mess” and repeated his pledge for a royal commission into the fire services if the coalition wins government in November.

The saga involving the MFB and CFA pay deals saw former emergency service minister Jane Garrett resign in 2016 and a succession of fire service executives quit.

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