Nobody’s safe: NSW firefighters forced to fight another O’Farrell fire

First they were forced to fight for workers compensation coverage, and won concessions , not that previous entitlements were adequate anyway.  Now NSW Firefighters are under seige again from the O’Farrell Government.  However, not only is their own safety and welfare at risk from proposed cuts but so too is the safety and welfare of the communities in which they serve.  Nobody’s safe!!

Firefighters target Coalition seats for bans over budget cuts

THE firefighters union is threatening to target Coalition electorates for industrial action if the state government presses ahead with budget savings that may force stations to close temporarily.

The Fire Brigade Employees’ Union has lodged a dispute in the Industrial Relations Commission, to be heard this morning, about proposals to cope with the $64 million in budget cuts needed over the next four years.

One option proposed by Fire and Rescue NSW to rein in spending is for a few stations to be ”taken offline”, or closed, for up to 14 hours when they are understaffed, with the remaining firefighters sent to other stations.

The union’s state secretary, Jim Casey, said the cuts compromised safety and the union was considering work bans on staff moving to stations in Coalition electorates if it meant other stations had to be taken offline. The bans would not apply to stations in electorates held by Labor, Greens and independent MPs.


”The FBEU is fundamentally opposed to these budget cuts. They will compromise community safety,” Mr Casey said. ”Among the options before the union is the idea of ensuring that any station taken offline be limited to stations covering electorates who voted for the O’Farrell government.”

The Emergency Services Minister, Mike Gallacher, criticised the union over the threat.

”If the FBEU intend on taking this matter to the IRC, surely the union would await the outcome before making threats,” a spokeswoman for the minister said.

Fire and Rescue NSW said up to three stations on a weekday and six at the weekend might be forced offline. Its commissioner, Greg Mullins, said he hoped savings could be achieved by other means, such as cutting overtime, which had risen by $7 million last financial year, and sick leave.

If not, he said, temporary closures would not compromise response times or public safety. On any given day, up to 15 of the state’s 94 stations were pulled offline for various reasons, he said.

”I hope that when we go to the industrial commission, the union will see what we’re trying to do is nothing different to a normal day in Sydney, where we take stations offline for training, education, hazard-reduction burn-offs,” Mr Mullins said.

The opposition’s emergency services spokesman, Nathan Rees, said the city needed more fire stations, not fewer. ”Barry O’Farrell has tried to get this out as the Olympics are starting and, of course, the workforce is going to be annoyed,” he said. ”You cannot rip $64 million out of the fire brigade budget without public safety being compromised.”




3 Responses to “Nobody’s safe: NSW firefighters forced to fight another O’Farrell fire”

  1. Fire station staffing changes on hold

    The firefighters’ union says it is pleased to have won a short-term reprieve from staffing cuts at New South Wales fire stations.

    Under the changes, which were due to begin this morning, some metropolitan stations would shut rather than pay overtime to cover staff shortages.

    The New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission has ruled the cuts should be delayed until Thursday so negotiations can continue.

    Jim Casey from the Fire Brigade Employees Union says he will meet the Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher later this week.

    “The stay of execution on these station closures can only be a good thing, even if it is only for three days,” he said.

    “As to what’s going to happen next, look it really is an open question.

    “We’ll be making our case as strongly as possible to both the minister and the commissioner that these cuts are unnecessary, over the top and are going result in a significant erosion of community safety.”

  2. Fire chiefs confident of overtime solution

    Fire and Rescue NSW says it is confident it will resolve a disagreement over overtime blowouts with the firefighters union before their next meeting with the industrial watchdog.

    The Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) took the state government to the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) on Monday, arguing that plans to cut $64 million from firefighters’ entitlements over four years would compromise safety.

    But Justice Frances Backman adjourned the matter until Thursday, and ordered the union to meet with Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher before the next IRC hearing.

    Acting Deputy Commissioner Jim Hamilton says he remains committed to working with the union to reduce overtime costs and identify other efficiencies before Thursday’s hearing.

    In the past month, overtime costs of $2.2 million have already been incurred, Mr Hamilton says.

    “We believe that this issue needs to be urgently addressed as part of a broader package of culture change and budget cost-saving measures,” Mr Hamilton said in a statement.

    “We are confident that the matter can be resolved before we return to the IRC.”

    The union and Mr Gallacher are scheduled to meet on Thursday at 1pm (AEST), an hour before the case resumes before the IRC.

    FBEU secretary Jim Casey said firefighters were working overtime to cover for colleagues on annual leave, and clamping down on entitlements would see up to eight Sydney stations shut down as firefighters filled staffing gaps elsewhere.

    Mr Casey said he hoped Mr Gallacher would understand the union’s concerns and argue in cabinet against a 1.2 per cent budget-cut policy for NSW Fire and Rescue.

    “He’s a hands-on minister and understands emergency services,” Mr Casey told AAP on Monday.

    “We’re hoping sanity will prevail and the cuts will be reversed.”

    Mr Hamilton said a proposal to extend a system of temporarily taking selected fire stations offline had been delayed and would be discussed further with the FBEU.
    FBEU NSW president Darin Sullivan has said the union is prepared to fight the cuts with industrial action.

  3. The real irony of this stupid decision is that it will be the insurance companies who will also be hurt. If firefighters are not available to put out a house fire then it will spread to the next house and the next house and the next house and guess who has to pay the bill if those householders are insured? Yes, Barry’s buddies !!! Short term thinking is a quality of those who lean to the right (psychological studies back this up)and their misguided use of austerity measures will bring them undone – just look at Greece, Spain, Ireland etc. But it is the lies that offend me the most, NSW was given a AAA rating before the last election and O Farrell is behaving like we are in a Depression and is using policies exactly the same as Hoover (US President in the 1930s) did – and they were a total failure. Workers Comp has been gutted because of this ideology and the attack on workers still goes on. Wake up people and stop this