Australia–– THERE are fears NSW communities will be at risk during the coming bushfire season due to dozens of job cuts in the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
A deadline for voluntary redundancies in the RFS expired on Monday morning (AEST) and the full extent of the cull and a organisational restructure should be announced in September.
It’s part of the state government’s plan to slash thousands of public sector jobs and reduce labour costs.
Opposition Leader John Robertson says a slimmed-down RFS will be unable to cope.
He accused ministers of putting communities at risk.
“These cuts will make it harder for the RFS to fight what is expected to be a horror fire season, with serious consequences, especially for people who live in or around bushland areas,” he said in a statement.
The Public Sector Association of NSW (PSA) expects 120 RFS jobs to be chopped and will try to negotiate with the NSW government to mitigate the losses.
The union’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner is pessimistic about his chances.
“This is at the beginning of the bushfire season, which is terrible and the service can’t afford to lose staff,” he told AAP.
Voluntary redundancy was offered to RFS staff in mid-August, with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons describing the situation as unprecedented.
In a leaked memo seen by AAP, Mr Fitzsimmons said the job losses may also come from enforced redundancy.
A RFS spokesman confirmed the service had called for voluntary redundancies but was unable to offer a timescale, where the job losses would occur, or the numbers involved.
NSW Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher denied reports that one in eight RFS staff would lose their jobs.
In a statement, Mr Fitzsimmons said the cutbacks would help deliver savings of $11.7 million over four years.
He insisted frontline services would not be affected.