Hearings in the Industrial Relations Commission today descended into high farce. The simple fact is that the Government is refusing point-blank accept that all firefighters who are killed or injured should be treated equally. Their position is such that we have been left with no option but to proceed with our industrial action in order to protect our members. From 0800 hours Sunday August 1, no non-SSF member is to respond to calls, or to undertake any other duties which may result in death or injury.
The Department has spent the last two days contacting off-duty members at their homes to advise them that they are to start at a station other than their own. The Union was not consulted about this development. Indeed, a very large question mark hangs over the validity of any order which is issued to members when they are off-duty. That being said, we believe the Department should manage the remaining SSF firefighters in a way that maximises available fire cover.
Accordingly, members who have been directed to report to another station whilst they have been off-duty are advised that if it is possible for them to report to the alternative station, then they should do so. The $18 relieving allowance and return kilometres to their own station will still apply.
We have also become aware that the Department has today issued various instructions contrary to our Union’s position. Any Departmental instruction which seeks to undermine our Union in this dispute is to be ignored. I refer in particular to the Commissioner’s “Current Industrial Action” letter of today. His threat of legal liability is a cheap scare tactic and a deliberate misinterpretation of Section 78 of the FB Act. This too is to be ignored – it has no basis. Should the Department continue to threaten us then the dispute will quickly escalate. Indeed, the Commissioner’s real colours finally showed through today in various media interviews. Mr MacDougall was quick to put his boot into his firefighters by warning the public that we were seeking “lifetime pensions” for “fishing trips” and “water skiing accidents”! His actions in this dispute will be not be forgotten.