The campaign to get the NSW Government to remove the most offensive parts of its attack on our wages has continued to roll out across NSW. Over twenty five ALP local MP’s have now been fronted by delegations of firefighters angry at the threat to close fire stations and sack firefighters if the court grants us any more than the 2.5%, 2.75% and 2.75% on offer. The latest and most spectacular of these has been the Illawarra firefighters approach to the Treasurer Michael Costa.
Illawarra FBEU members confronted the Treasurer on the first day of the Governments planned ‘charm offensive’ to woo back ALP voters in Wollongong. The confrontation was a debacle for the Government with the Treasurer standing over a ten year old girl after she picked him up on claims that NSW firefighters are the best in the country. The Treasurer was clearly embarrassed and humiliated with local regional media catching the entire episode on film. As a direct result the Treasurer agreed to meeting with a delegation of firefighters from the Illawarra and the Union’s State Secretary.
The meeting occurred on Monday afternoon in the cabinet offices and was nothing short of an utter disgrace. The Treasurer spent the better part of an hour abusing firefighters claiming the current firefighters Award is a rort and that firefighters are working too much overtime.
It is now clear that the NSW Government is gearing up to attack firefighters for working too much overtime in exactly the same way that it has attacked railworkers immediately before their wage claim, Sydney Ferry workers immediately before their wage claim and in exactly the same way the Government is now attacking prison officers at the very time that they are negotiating their wage claim. It is now almost certain that Government will shortly start to get dirty in this campaign and feed the media stories that paint firefighters as greedy and self interested for working extra hours to maintain safe minimum crewing throughout NSW.
The Union for its part will continue to lobby ALP members of Parliament and put pressure on the Government to stop the assault on our wages and conditions. Firefighters in the Western suburbs of Sydney have now set up a regular picket outside the electorate office of the Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees and have been handing out fliers explaining what the Ministers plans will mean for community safety and asking local people to sign petitions calling on the Government to back off.
With Western Sydney and the Illawarra now actively campaigning against local MP’s the Union needs to directly target ALP members in other electorates. The recent decision by the Commissioner to drop the claim on one week of our annual leave and the statements from the Minister that no station will be permanently closed have come as a direct result of the Union’s lobby efforts. It is now extremely important that all members attend a Union meeting and show the Government we are not going to put up with cuts to our wage our condition or reductions in community safety.