BULLETIN

Bulletin No:          131                                     Volume:  20                        Monday 16 June 2014

IMPORTANT NOTICE

TO ALL UFU MFB MEMBERS

YOUR PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN IS EFFECTIVE

WELL DONE


As members would be aware, the UFU has initiated a public awareness campaign in conjunction with the Trades Hall Council and other unions regarding the implications of the State Government’s, MFB’s and CFA’s attacks on firefighters conditions and budget cuts.

Your contribution to our campaign is having an effect.

Recent polling has showed that the public awareness regarding the attack on firefighters ambulance officers etc is becoming a major issue in the minds of the public we serve.

Without this awareness created by your efforts, there would no public scrutiny of the MFB’s, CFA’s and the Napthine Government’s attack on your conditions and the level of service you provide.

The effectiveness of our campaign is evident by the recent responses from the MFB where they have continued to try and intimidate and silence members from making their concerns known in the public.

You should disregard the MFB’s bullying tactics and indeed use such correspondence from the Chief Fire Officer Peter Rau and the new CEO Jim Higgins for what it is – and that is an attempt to silence you.

Below is the UFU advice from its solicitors in relation to the MFB’s attempt to silence you on the basis of political activity.

Further, the UFU will write to Mr Rau asking for details of the alleged complaint as we do not believe the complaint is legitimate or has a legitimate basis but more to the point it is just part of an attempt to try to silence our awareness campaign.

However, if the first name of the complainant is either Denis or Kim we would understand their anxiety about such door-knock exposing the attack on firefighters and ambulance officers.

Please read the below and if you have any further concerns do not hesitate to contact the Branch Secretary Peter Marshall 0419 127 004.

ADVICE TO MEMBERS REGARDING MFB GENERAL ORDER 3

As members would be aware, the general order 3 amendments purport to gag operational staff and prevent them from participating in legitimate political activities by seeking to prohibit:

  • The improper use of your position for political purposes;
  • Making public comment about incidents unless authorised; and
  • Representing yourself to anyone in a manner contrary to the authorised position of the MFB.

These prohibitions are directed to the conduct of operational staff members in your capacity as an operational staff member.

Importantly, the apparently broad language of the amendments to the General Order to do affect the rights of all members under the Fair Work Act to engage in industrial activity without being subject to adverse action.

Conduct protected by the Fair Work Act includes:

  • Promoting or participating in a lawful activity on behalf of the Union or promoted by the Union;
  • Advancing the views, claims or interests of the Union.

(Sections 346 – 347 Fair Work Act 2009).

The employer is prohibited from taking adverse action against you because you engage in such activity regardless of the terms of the General Order.

Members should also note that the amendments to General Order No. 3 need to read and applied by the MFB:

  • For the legitimate purposes and interests of the MFB in its capacity as an employer;
  • Consistently with the rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) including:
  • the right to freedom of expression;
  • the right of peaceful assembly; and
  • the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs;
  • Consistently with rights of employees to the protections under the Fair Work Act; and
  • Consistently with the right of employees not to be discriminated against by reason of industrial activity or political belief or activity under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic).

Accordingly, the following activity is not properly restricted by the amendment of General Order 3:

  1. Participation in a UFU rally while off duty even if such participation involves identification as a firefighter (provided the employer’s uniform or equipment is not involved- please not the UFU has made alternative arrangements in consideration of this);
  2. Participation in a private capacity in political  affairs or political issues; and
  3. Making public comment expressly in a private capacity on political affairs (provided such commentary does not involve identification of the employer or disclosure of material or information obtained by reason of your employment).  

There are a number of other troubling aspects relating to the making of the amendment to the Order including:

  • whether the Chief Officer had regard to employees’ rights under the Charter;
  • absence of consultation with the Union;
  • the breadth and uncertainty of the terms of the new prohibitions; and
  • the intended purpose of the amendments.

The UFU is giving these matters further consideration.

Unfortunately, it appears the MFB have embarked on a path of increased censorship and scrutiny of employees for no good reason. This latest action comes after the MFB has implemented a regime of monitoring and censoring Union communications.

It is disappointing that the MFB continues to implement such an oppressive stance with respect to your basic rights, despite your dedicated service to the community.

Worse, such activities appear to be progressed by a rotating cast of faceless senior executives and bureaucrats as well as the occasional promoted firefighter who appears to have simply lost their way, to inhibit and restrict experienced firefighters who have given their life to the job.

Firefighters, who over many years turn out to the most difficult and distressing situations to protect the community.

Firefighters, who actually understand the Brigade, what it means to be a firefighter and the concerns for the future of the Brigade and community protection.

That the MFB Senior Executives seek to gag you speaks volumes of itself.

If any member is threatened with, or subject to, action in respect of conduct where General Order 3 as amended is  relied upon should contact the UFU immediately.

Members are also reminded that caution should be adhered to in utilising the MFB email and IT systems, particularly where you may be seeking assistance in relation to concerns regarding the behavior or actions of senior management.

Strength in Unity

READ OUT AT MUSTER AND PIN ON NOTICE BOARD

Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary