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Vic fire EBA to keep bosses accountable

AAP logoAAP 27/09/2016 Angus Livingston and Helen Velissaris

Career Victorian firefighters don't trust politicians to keep their bosses honest so they want their enterprise agreement to do it.

United Firefighters Union boss Peter Marshall says the long-running dispute over the CFA and MFB pay deals for firefighters was about enforcing results.

He told a senate inquiry looking at new laws to protect the role of volunteers in emergency service organisations that enterprise bargaining agreements delivered accountability.

"The minister can't prosecute, the minister can't enforce, other than by direction. Whereas the EBA is actually an enforceable legal document," Mr Marshall told the inquiry on Wednesday.

He pointed to recommendations to the government in 1993 and from the bushfire royal commission about standardising CFA and MFB equipment so they could use each other's gear, such as hose couplings.

"Today as I speak, those hose couplings are still not compatible. Radios in the CFA and the MFB are not compatible," he said.

"The EBA ... resolves and short-tracks a lot of those problems."

The former board of the CFA was sacked for opposing the government's proposed deal, while chief executive Lucinda Nolan, chief fire officer Joe Buffone and emergency services minister Jane Garrett resigned in protest.

When asked why so many key people opposed the deal, Mr Marshall said it had been a "very heated industrial dispute".

"People locked themselves into a position, and sometimes you lose focus of what the actual issue is," he said.

Ms Nolan told the inquiry she had never seen a workplace agreement that handed power to a third party while still making management responsible.

"Why would anybody hand over control of management decision-making to a third party and still maintain 100 per cent accountability," she said.

Volunteer firefighters - who make up the vast majority of the CFA - feared the new deal would sideline them, and said they had not been listened to.

"We're somehow branded as making trouble just for sticking up for volunteers," VFBV chief executive Andrew Ford said.

The volunteer organisation has taken the CFA to court over the proposed EBA, and are awaiting a trial date.

The inquiry is looking at draft laws to amend the Fair Work Act to ban enterprise agreements from limiting the ability of volunteer emergency services agencies to manage volunteers.

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