TREASURER PLAYING POLITICS WHILE FIREFIGHTERS ARE PUT AT RISK

Fire Fighters History

Members may have heard interviews on Friday with the SA Treasurer Rob Lucas revealing that he is increasing the Emergency Services Levy. 

In his justification for his reversal of an election promise in these difficult times, Mr Lucas singled out a pay increase to MFS firefighters as one “reason” for the hike in the ESL. 

He claimed our pay increase was “a deal” by the UFU with the previous labour government, which “brought no efficiencies”. 

It’s no secret that the Treasurer begrudges the 2% pay increase the UFU won last July. Nor that the government opposed the increase and when they lost the argument and couldn’t overturn it, refused to fund it, leaving the Chief Officer’s budget further out in the cold. 

The government is well aware that UFU members worked hard on potential efficiencies for the MFS to earn the 2% and that the decision to award it, had to be arbitrated. The decision on the matter is posted on our website here, outlining all the work by UFU members to try to modernise the MFS and make it more efficient, in order to justify a quite modest increase. 

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT (EA)

Our Enterprise Agreement (EA) was certified by the SA Employment Tribunal in 2017, the pay increases and efficiency measures the parties agreed to, are clearly set out and that was certainly no secret to the government when they were reducing the ESL in 2018. 

Even with the achievement of the 2% efficiency increase last July, the resultant annual pay increase during the EA of just under 3% pa, is respectable in the circumstances, but certainly not lavish. 

Nor were we the only employees in the emergency services sector or indeed the South Australian public sector, to receive pay increases. But we were the only employees not funded, then singled out for mention by Mr Lucas last Friday. Curious that. Or perhaps not. 

Mr Lucas appears to have an enmity towards firefighters which reportedly extends back decades. It’s said that he actually runs this administration so perhaps this is why there is also such a concentrated attack currently on our extended workers’ compensation benefits. 

And it may be why, despite repeated representations to the government, the MFS just can’t get the resourcing it needs to properly equip our vital frontline service and why instead the MFS has been the subject of an “expenditure review” instead of the funding review it really needs.

UFUSA REPRESENTATIONS

Our Union has made vigorous representations in the last few months on MFS resourcing to not just the SAMFS Expenditure Review, but to the Minister for Emergency Services, the Independent Review into South Australia’s 2019/2020 Bushfire Season, the Royal Commission into National Disaster Arrangements and we are just concluding our response to the SAFECOM CE’s Sector Analysis. 

The FACTS demonstrate that the SAMFS is grossly underfunded compared to most other professional fire and rescue services in Australia, based on spending per 100,000 head of population. 

The results of our research is contained in our submissions listed above but is best encapsulated in the UFU Response to Dominic Lane’s ‘Analysis’ of the Emergency Services Sector in SA which will be finalised and published soon on our website. 

Meantime we know that as MFS firefighters take on additional functions such as wildfire, our members head out in strike teams in old and often unreliable appliances (if they can even be found) without burn over protection, and too frequently without essential equipment such as chainsaws and TICs. 

ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT

Our Engineering Department is shamefully reduced in staffing numbers and support, while our fleet gets older and there is no proper plan or funding for renewal. Work on our appliances is increasingly being outsourced and members report fear to address faults in appliances because you know the likely state of the spare you’ll get, if indeed there is one available. 

Our L & D staff work hard to try to meet the challenges presented while being woefully under resourced. Instead of receiving training required to safely do our work, choices are being required about which training courses can be afforded and training gaps are growing. 

Our processes and systems need review and renewal, with interoperability and IT requiring urgent attention. 

Even a rain jacket appears to be begrudged. While the wet weather gear might be coming, currently we are into the third winter since the Minister gave his undertaking for a rain jacket so that we would not be expected to continue to turn out to be drenched in a downpour. 

Our union will continue to raise our voices about the need for appropriate resourcing to ensure adequate resources to do our work to safely protect and defend our SA community. 

And we won’t be silenced by grubby politics. 

In solidarity, 

TREASURER PLAYING POLITICS WHILE FIREFIGHTERS ARE PUT AT RISK

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United Fire Fighters Union Of South Australia - UFUSA

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