August 21, 1997

Members would have followed the numerous updates of a now 3-year Victorian dispute provided throughout recent editions of the Union’s journals and notices. That dispute is now almost certain to escalate beyond wages and conditions, into a struggle to retain firefighters’ jobs and a publicly-owned fire service.

The attached page is reproduced from the lead story of the last Sunday Age (17/8) in Melbourne. The article “Firemen face sack in secret overhaul” reveals confidential management plans to sack all existing MFB firefighters if the Union does not accept massive “reforms” concerning members’ wages and conditions. It is now known that management’s Plan C “Ultimate fallback action plan” is to sack all existing MFB firefighting staff and recruit new firefighters on individual work contracts which will allow for cut-rate pay and “ultra-flexible” conditions of employment. There will be no collective bargaining, no Award – and no Union.

It is noteworthy that the Kennett Government is continuing on with its plans for up to eight fire stations (and staff) to be privatised at or around the same time, in order to provide “competition” so we can all see “who provides the best service”!

I am aware that many members have previously dismissed the Union’s warnings of potential sackings, privatisation and the like as nothing more than left-wing paranoia. To those members I say, take a good, hard look at what’s happening to our comrades in Victoria – and indeed in just about every other Brigade both in Australia and NZ. We cannot allow ourselves to simply say it will never happen here. Make no mistake – the Victorian struggle is our struggle.

We are keeping in close contact with the UFUA’s Victorian Branch, and will be providing any and all available assistance. In the meantime, members are urged to take around 20 minutes to watch the enclosed video, and to read the article. The video was prepared by the Union’s Victorian Branch for public distibution some 12 or so months ago as part of the Union’s strategy against privatisation.

Melbourne’s firies are being threatened with the option of reduced wages and conditions, or the sack. Firefighters – like all workers – are now clearly under attack, but it will only happen here if we let it happen. The message is simple;

UNITY IS STRENGTH – STAY ORGANISED!

Chris Read

State Secretary Thursday 21st August, 1997