As Victoria’s troubled fire services are rocked by the resignation of a top fire chief less than a week before a controversial overhaul of their system, fresh concerns have been raised about the influence of the powerful United Firefighters Union (UFU) reports the ABC.
Country Fire Authority chief officer Steve Warrington resigned on Thursday night, hours after refusing to sign a special secondment agreement needed for the operation of the CFA from July 1.
Next Wednesday, the CFA will become a volunteer-only service. According to cabinet-in-confidence documents seen by the ABC, the UFU have a proposal for nearly 600 extra firefighters over the next six years at a cost of more than $400 million.
The documents also suggest that the UFU drafted its own secondment model for the arrangement between CFA and the new Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV).
Under the fire services shake-up, administration staff for the CFA will be seconded from the new FRV.
A lifelong CFA career firefighter, Mr Warrington led the state’s firefighters during the horrific summer of bushfires.
Senior Government sources insist Mr Warrington was not sacked and chose to leave after such a bruising summer and preparing for the shake-up of the CFA and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).
Mr Warrington could not be contacted for comment.
Exodus of fire service leaders
Mr Warrington’s departure is just the latest in a string of high profile resignations from Victoria’s fire services including former CFA chief executive Lucinda Nolan, former CFA chief officer Joe Buffone, former Metropolitan Fire Brigade chief officer Peter Rau and former Metropolitan Fire Brigade chief executive Jim Higgins.
Minister Jane Garrett was also forced out of cabinet due to her opposition to a deal with the United Firefighters Union, backed by the Premier.
From Wednesday, paid firefighters in 38 integrated brigades in suburban Melbourne and built up regional areas including Traralgon, Warrnambool and Geelong will transfer to the new Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV).
The MFB will be replaced by FRV, creating a whole new professional state-wide firefighting authority for urban areas. There will be 85 brigades under its command.
More than 1,200 CFA brigades will continue as volunteer units.
This issue is not new. A couple of examples:
In 2016 Crikey brought us this report.
Then in 2018 Craig Lapsley claimed that union firefighters were draining the taxpayers dry pulling an average of $225,000 nce generous overtime penalties and allowances were added to their salaries.
FRV = Finally Rid of Volunteers
A further insight into this story comes from Midland Express today.