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CFA pay deal may end up in Federal Court

AAP logoAAP 25/10/2016 Julian Drape and Jacqueline Le

Volunteer firefighters have dropped a Victorian Supreme Court challenge to a controversial CFA pay deal but predicted the dispute may be back before the Federal Court in a matter of months.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria chief executive Andrew Ford on Tuesday said the current challenge was no longer required after the federal government passed laws to protect the role of volunteers in emergency service organisations.

"We've won the issue by the change to the federal law," Mr Ford told reporters outside court.

Tuesday's move means the CFA leadership can now put the enterprise agreement to paid firefighters for a vote.

But any clauses that fall foul of the Turnbull government's amendments to the Fair Work Act a fortnight ago could be challenged in the Fair Work Commission and, subsequently, the Federal Court.

VFBV barrister Stuart Wood QC on Tuesday told the Supreme Court the matter was simply moving "holus-bolus" to the federal arena.

He predicted the Fair Work Commission would knock out clauses affecting negatively on volunteers "and the CFA and the United Firefighters Union will then move to place those clauses in a deed and that deed would be immune from challenge by the federal legislation".

In that case "we would be back to where we started" in a few months but before the Federal Court, Mr Wood said.

Despite the volunteers' gloomy outlook, the CFA and the Victorian government were happy to celebrate what they claimed was a victory.

CFA chief executive Frances Diver said the board would put the EBA to workers - in its current form - in a matter of weeks.

"This allows us to move to the next stage for us in resolving the dispute," Ms Diver told reporters outside court.

"We're now very pleased to be on the pathway towards putting this enterprise agreement to a vote."

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino welcomed "the decision of the VFBV to walk away".

"They can dress it up any way they like, but the fact is if they had a strong case they would not have withdrawn," the Labor minister told reporters.

The federal government remains convinced the CFA leadership will have to scrap any terms that restrict the ability of the organisation to manage volunteers or see the commission strike out those clauses as unlawful.

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