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CFA dispute our Ash Wednesday: volunteers

AAP logoAAP 22/08/2016 By Helen Velissaris

Don Bingham, a veteran volunteer firefighter of 50 years, doesn't hold back when describing the current fight between the CFA membership and the paid firefighters' union.

"We see this as our Ash Wednesday," an emotional Mr Bingham told volunteers at a meeting in Coldstream, northeast of Melbourne on Monday.

"Ash Wednesday ... was beaten by mankind - 100,000 stood the line.

"This is our current Ash Wednesday and by God we'll win it."

Mr Bingham fears the role of 60,000 CFA volunteers will be diminished if a new enterprise bargaining agreement with paid firefighters is adopted.

He's concerned the proposed deal - which is being challenged in court - effectively gives the firefighters' union veto powers over operational decisions.

"We just don't want to be interfered with - we are volunteers," Mr Bingham said.

More than 50 CFA volunteers joined Mr Bingham to welcome Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Coldstream on Monday.

The PM plans to make it unlawful for enterprise agreements to limit the ability of emergency services agencies to manage volunteers.

Mr Turnbull argues many prospective - as well as existing - CFA volunteers might reconsider being a part of the organisation if the EBA is adopted.

"If you drain away from a volunteer organisation the autonomy, the sense of self respect, the sense of self control of those volunteers, then you will discourage recruitment," Mr Turnbull said.

A 19-year-old volunteer who didn't want to be named said on Monday the ongoing dispute was sapping morale.

"It's been pretty rough - it's got to the stage that everyone on all sides of it is pretty well over it," he told AAP.

"People are being really raw and nasty to each other because it has become such an emotive issue."

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