New Zealand — The Victorian government could face another drawn-out pay dispute as firefighters plan for a massive workplace campaign ahead of the state election.
The United Firefighters Union rejected key elements of the latest pay offer on Wednesday, citing what the union believes are moves to reduce staffing levels and training within the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB).
Union secretary Peter Marshall says firefighters have lost all confidence in the state government because the proposed workplace agreements will put the community at risk.
“It is such a critical issue that if they were to get their way, lives will be lost,” he told AAP.
“I’m not saying that to dramatise things. If you don’t have a fire truck and you don’t have firefighters, you can’t rescue someone.”
He said MFB and CFA firefighters were planning an extensive campaign to run until the November 2014 election.
Premier Denis Napthine and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells will be targeted at public events and be bombarded by union supporters on social media during the campaign blitz, he said.
The move comes after the state government spent months negotiating high-profile disputes with teachers and nurses.
The firefighters’ union says the latest pay offer cuts the minimum number of on-duty MFB firefighters each day and removes mandatory training requirements.
But MFB chief officer Shane Wright rejected the union’s claims.
He said staff would be recalled when daily staffing levels dropped below the minimum of 270 people only when the risk dictated such a move.
“This is a model that works,” he said.
He said the MFB also wanted to recognise interstate firefighters who were trained elsewhere rather than having them retake training.
A government spokeswoman says it would be inappropriate to comment since pay negotiations are continuing.