Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the Australian state of Victoria, is proposing a major overhaul of the fire services organizations. If legislation to enact the changes is passed, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) will become a volunteer-only agency when its paid employees merge with what has been the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to morph into the newly-created Fire Rescue Victoria.
The Premier said, “These challenges have been made clear through a number of reviews in recent years, including the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.”
The MFB provides firefighting, rescue, medical, and hazardous material incident response services to the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The CFA, which provides firefighting and emergency services to rural areas of Victoria, has been mostly volunteer, with about 35,000 volunteers and over 1,000 paid professionals.
The Premier intends to sweeten the deal by promising more than $100 million
to support volunteer brigades with additional
training, equipment and facilities.
In addition (and this is big) the government intends to recognize presumptive cancers that are diagnosed among volunteers.
Below is an excerpt from a summary of the proposed fire services reorganization:
This recognises the challenges that firefighters have faced in accessing compensation for cancer arising from their service. The scheme will deliver equal access to compensation for career and volunteer firefighters.
It will apply to firefighters who have developed cancer because of their service and have been diagnosed since 1 June 2016. Rules that require volunteer firefighters to have attended a specific number of fires are problematic, so the scheme will instead mirror the approach taken in Queensland, which has no specific incident requirements.
Skeptics think one of the reasons for the major revamping of the agencies is the hope that it “will end a controversial dispute with the United Firefighters Union, which has fought bitterly with the government, the CFA, the MFB and volunteers over new pay deals”, according to an article at 9news.com.au.