Volunteer firies seek protection against union takeover

QUEENSLAND'S 36,000 volunteer firefighters have been assured their key lobby group will defend them against a union takeover like Victoria's.

Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux said his organisation would work to block any attempts to mirror in Queensland the Victorian Government-backed deal between the Country Fire Authority and the United Firefighters Union.

The CFA has more than 60,000 volunteers and the deal has caused tensions between the two organisations to boil over.

There are fears the deal, which is backed by Premier Daniel Andrews, will give unprecedented control of the CFA to the United Firefighters Union, leading to the roles and independence of volunteers being undermined.

While the volunteers do not oppose improved wages and conditions for paid firefighters, they are concerned the UFU will attempt to veto and control their organisation.

Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett resigned from Mr Andrews' cabinet rather than support the pay deal, the

CFA board was subsequently sacked and the chief executive officer resigned.

Reflecting on the future ramifications for Queensland's yellow army, Mr Choveaux said the CFA-UFU deal was a reflection of "the militant Victorian UFU's position" of "more of us and more for us".

"That has nothing to do with community defence and meeting community resilience needs," he said.

"CFA volunteer firefighters who fall into the new UFU-controlled permanent station areas will no longer have a brigade to belong to.

"So when Victoria catches fire in a big way there will no longer be the huge surge capacity available from the old CFA stations in metropolitan areas to meet the fires, or in the now huge urban and rural interface surrounding major cities."

Mr Choveaux said while he could not rule out a similar takeover in Queensland, his organisation would fight it.

"Don't say it cannot happen - it happened in Queensland under previous governments and we are still fighting to reclaim our volunteer rights to defend our communities," he said.  - ARM NEWSDESK

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