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CFSVA says "NO" to One Fire Service Model

 

December 2014

 

The CFSVA has successfully rejected another attempt to make volunteers respondent to a One Fire Service Model.

In the CFSVA’s response to the Sector Reform Discussion Paper the CFSVA has rejected attempts to create a fully integrated model comprising of CFS, SES and MFS all operating under the one banner. The CFSVA response to the Minister stated that following an extensive consultation with CFS volunteers the following position was reached:

  •  CFS volunteers refuse to accept or work under a One Fire Service Model
  •  CFS volunteers will not accept the amalgamation or integration of CFS volunteer firefighters and MFS paid firefighters.
  •  CFS volunteers refuse to accept or work under any hybrid model that compromises the integrity of CFS as an agency.
  •  CFS volunteers will not accept the amalgamation or integration of services at any level that directly impacts on the current CFS Chain of Command and will vehemently oppose any such attempts.
  •  CFS volunteers will not accept change purely for the sake of change nor to appease a union desire.

 

The CFSVA justified this position on the basis that CFS is a well-structured agency which operates under a Standards of Fire and Emergency Cover (SFECs) and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs); is highly regarded by South Australian Communities; and is professionally acknowledged by interstate peers. CFS operates under a lean model with a low staff to volunteer ratio; meets all its budget obligations including Efficiency Dividends, and provides a highly professional emergency response to 90% of South Australia, including isolated and remote areas of the state.

In forming this position the CFSVA has been successful in preserving CFS operations, Chain of command and the volunteer ethos, with the Minister committing to retain 3 emergency service agencies (CFS, SES and MFS) to perform core operational function, just as they currently do. The Minister has agreed that the CFS Chain of Command will continue under existing arrangements.

Throughout the Minister’s consultation process the indication given by the majority of CFS volunteers was that there may be room for improvement within the emergency sector, however the CFSVA is quite adamant that this change WILL NOT to be at the expense of CFS volunteers.

The CFSVA appreciates the Minister’s desire to seek efficiencies, however has sought reassurance from the Minister that there will be NO shift in funding and resourcing away from volunteers and that in fact the sector reform will bring more benefits to volunteers. The Minister has continually indicated that the intention of this reform is to seek efficiencies that can be injected back into the sector to address current inequities. 

 

The Minister has issued the following outline of the Sector Reform process:

 

1. a. The reforms will be phased in to maintain operational capabilities.

b. Industrial and Human Resources issues flowing from the integration of various functions within the existing organisations and services will be addressed through the reference group and project team and options such as a workplace flexibility agreement may be prepared where applicable.

c. The Volunteer Charter will be reviewed and revised, and subject to the agreement of Parliament be elevated to a regulation pursuant to the amended Act.

d. The project team has been established to undertake the organisational and job redesign consults and engage with all relevant stakeholders on an ongoing basis.

e. The project team considers as part of its organisational and redesign work the need for staff to have ‘dual’ roles to assist during operational activities.

 

 

2. The guiding principles agreed to at the first roundtable in June 2014 continue to be supported.

Key principles include:

a. One integrated organisation, delivering three services, with the ability to allocate resources and deliver a response on a state-wide basis, reflective of state-wide risks;

b. Acknowledging the important role volunteers play in the sector;

c. Maintaining the existing high level of frontline services (and increasing the opportunity for greater collaboration/cooperation); and

d. Retaining a level of autonomy (and flexibility) at the local level for volunteers and ensure that they have representation at the highest level of decision making in any proposed sector reform.

 

3. A Reference Group will be established to:

a. Provide advice to the Minister and Project Team.

b. Assist with the facilitation of information between the Project Team and the wider sector members.

c. Identify issues/risks and raise these with the Minister and Project Team.

 

4. The Reference Group will consist of:

a. 2 representatives from the CFSVA

b. 2 representatives from the SESVA

c. 2 representatives from the UFU

d. 2 representatives from the PSA

e. 2 representatives from the SAFECOM Board

f. 1 representatives from VMR

g. 1 youth representative from the CFS (nominated by the CFS Youth Advisory Council)

 h. 1 youth representative from the SES.

 

5. A Project Team has been established to:

a. Engage relevant subject matter experts and convene, lead and manage working groups (when appropriate).

b. Facilitate meaningful consultation with various sector partners.

c. Progress the reform agenda under the guidance of the Minister, Reference Group and SAFECOM Board. 

 

6. The Project Team will consist of a core team and will analyse the reform submissions and engage with relevant subject matter experts (finance, business analyst etc) when required. The core team will consist of:

 

a. Project Director

b. Project Manager

c. Project Support Officer 

The new Commissioner (once appointed) will take over the lead of the reform process no later than 1st July 2015.

The position of Project Director was recently advertised and the CFSVA understands that an announcement in relation to an appointment is imminent. In the meantime Toni Richardson from SAFECOM Volunteer Support Branch has been working as the Project Manager. The CFSVA has been invited by the Minister to nominate two representatives to sit on the Reference Group, and will be responding shortly.

The following section of the CFSVA’s response to the Sector Reform Discussion Paper summarises the CFSVA’s position in relation to the Sector Reform:

"In 2012/2013 CFS volunteers donated 690,000 emergency response hours to the state of South Australia. The $66 million funding provided to CFS is invested into infrastructure and equipment which remains the property of the state; is used to purchase services such as the Government GRN network, and shamefully only a very small percentage of these funds applied to volunteer support. The question is how much more efficient can CFS become?

Government must recognise that the greatest asset of the emergency services are the 15,000 volunteer emergency responders, who for the benefit of South Australia must remain the architects of their future. Government needs to realise that any future model must be supported by the volunteers if the structure is to succeed, as failure to recognise this fact will lead to the loss of or diminished participation of volunteers.

As stated by Minister Piccolo: "The loss of even one CFS volunteer is one too many!"

 

Sonia St Alban

Executive Director Country Fire Service Volunteers Association (SA) Inc

 

 

  

 

 

 

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