The SA branch of the UFU is a small, but vital Union, which represents the interest of professional and retained firefighters in South Australia. It is a Union committed to the cause of establishing a better fire service, not only for its members, but also for the community which it serves. The Union was formed in July 1986 after the amalgamation of the Fire Brigade Officers Association and Fire Firefighters Association of South Australia.
The Formative Years
From the early 1900’s through to the early 1970’s the Officers and Firefighters were a small and neglected part of a Union known as the Australian Government Workers’ Association (SA). The AGWA is now part of the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. In the many years that we were part of the AGWA, services that were provided to Firefighters were inferior in nature compared to their Victorian counterparts.
Firefighters and Officers in South Australia in the late 60’s and early 70’s quickly became dissatisfied with the services that were being provided by the AGWA and consequently broke away from that Union to form two separate organisations, one representing Officers and the other representing Firefighters. It was unfortunate that the split away from the AGWA wasn’t a united one, however, the Officers and Firefighters continued to work closely together between 1971 and 1986, which saw a period of great activity in South Australia. Within a short period of time wages and conditions of Officers and Firefighters inSouth Australia quickly moved from the lower quartile to the upper quartile and happily we remain in that position today. Great improvements were made as a result of a number of intense industrial disputes, to greatly improve the superannuation benefits.
During this period of intense activity on the part of the two Associations, the Fire Brigades’ Board of South Australia adopted a confrontationist role and everything that was claimed by the two Associations was generally resisted by the Board. Consequently, in the late 70’s, early 80’s, the two Associations found themselves locked into a mortal battle with the Fire Brigades Board and the upshot of that battle was that the two Associations were able to convince the Tonkin Liberal Government to disband the Fire Brigades’ Board in favour of a Chief Executive Officer from the ranks, to head up the South Australian Fire Service.This was done in late 1981 and early in 1982 Mr Allan Bruce, from the New Zealand Fire Service was appointed as Chief Officer of the newly formed SA Metropolitan Fire Service.
The reforms that occurred under the leadership of Allan Bruce in full and close co-operation with the Union saw the Fire Service being transferred from one of the worst in Australia to clearly one of the best. The Headquarters building that was occupied in 1984 was the best such building in Australia and of itself symbolised the very great changes that occurred in the SA Metropolitan Fire Service.