Bulletin No: 123 Volume: 22 Wednesday 6 July 2016
To: ALL UFU MEMBERS
UFU DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT
MFB CFA SPONSORED VEOHRC REVIEW
PARTICIPATION IN THE REVIEW IS VOLUNTARY –
THE UFU ADVISES THAT IT IS NOT IN YOUR INTERESTS TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE VEOHRC REVIEW
UFU ENGAGES INDEPENDENT UNIVERSITY TO CONDUCT INQUIRY
As members are aware, firefighters in the MFB and CFA have been systematically and consistently vilified in the media and in some cases being labelled as misogynistic, thugs and bullies.
We have good grounds to believe that the MFB and CFA management have orchestrated this campaign in conjunction with media outlets, the Liberal Party and other third parties in an attempt to lower the standing of firefighters in the community.
As part of that strategy of denigration the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission provided the CFA with a document that alleged breaches legislation. However the document itself heavily qualifies its findings and in short basically said it could not be relied upon. Despite the above, the document was provided to the Herald Sun and widely disseminated within the public arena purporting to be a statement of fact.
Today MFB CEO Jim Higgins emailed all employees in part informing them of a VEOHRC Review “into the extent, nature and impact of sexual harassment and discrimination, including bullying on employees and volunteers of the CFA and MFB”. The fact that it includes volunteers is a concern in itself as essentially any findings of volunteers’ conduct will not be distinguished and therefore there cannot be any independent or accurate findings through this review.
The UFU does not accept that this Review is independent or a genuine attempt by the fire services to investigate these matters which were raised in a general manner by the Fire Services Review report in March this year.
We are also greatly concerned that there does not appear to be any controls or protections in place to ensure full and frank reporting and validation of the outcomes.
For all these reasons, the UFU is strongly of the view that it is not in members’ interest to participate in the VEOHRC Review.
Instead the UFU engaged an independent tertiary institution to undertake a review to ensure all employees have an opportunity to participate in a genuine and independent review.
The UFU has sought legal advice on the VEOHRC being used by the fire services in such a manner as there are substantial matters that bring into question its independence.
At no point in time did the VEOHRC seek to qualify the accuracy of its document that claimed breaches of legislation or correct the public record, instead it allowed the document to be used unchallenged even though the Commission itself knew it was of little value, and despite the Commission being charged with protecting employees engaged in industrial activity, i.e. being part of a union.
Not only did the VEOHRC take CFA as its client and provide advice to the CFA without discussing the matter with the union, it also did not prevent the systematic vilification of the union and its members by the release of its partisan report on an out of date copy of the proposed agreement over 5 months since it was provided to the CFA on 31 December 2015. As members would be aware, CFA have used this document to vilify firefighters and our industry without pointing out the limitations of the review.
For the VEOHRC to now attempt to perform an “independent” review after having acted for the CFA in the bargaining dispute is unsustainable and their conduct is at the very least tainted with the perception of bias.
Despite the above the UFU takes its members rights and public reputation seriously and has put in place the appropriate mechanisms to ensure that firefighters – both MFB and CFA – are not further vilified. This includes engaging the independent University to conduct the Review.
Members will shortly be receiving information on this independent review by a reputable university and an invitation to participate.
Please contact the UFU office on 9419 8811 should you wish to discuss this matter.
Strength in Unity
READ OUT AT MUSTER AND PIN ON NOTICE BOARD
Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary