100 signatures reached
To: To the Legislative Assembly of Victoria
Protect CFA Volunteers from Bullying
Because CFA "volunteers" are not "employees" they do not have the comprehensive legislative protections against bullying, harassment, intimidation or vilification available to others employed in the CFA workplace.
We request that the Legislative Assembly move to address our shared concerns to ensure positive outcomes, transparency and to strengthen the processes for the investigation and resolution of complaints made from within the CFA, to the mutual benefit of volunteers, the CFA and the communities we serve. We acknowledge there is a Review currently underway into Equity and Diversity covering the CFA.
Julian Burnside AO QC advises: ‘You are not afforded Fair Work protections as a volunteer. Volunteers receive limited protection under Discrimination and Occupational Health and Safety legislation. … a situation must be remedied by an exercise of discretion as opposed to the enforcement of a law.’
Recognising that the most productive way of addressing the issue in the long term will involve significant internal cultural change within the CFA, we believe these improvements initially should involve the legislated establishment of a separate entity, or provision within an existing body of an organisation, to deal with complaints, completely independent of the CFA.
What we are calling for is proactive endorsement and institutionalising of reforms for better workplace protection, as is already the case with employees, to include enforceable provisions for CFA volunteers to be protected from and be compensated for being bullied or other discriminatory and inequitable workplace behaviours.
Amongst other things, we believe legislation needs to embrace the following:
• The findings of the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission Independent Equity and Diversity Review of the Country Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, when released.
• CFA Volunteer Code of Conduct
• Victorian Emergency Management Strategic Action Plan 2015 – 2018 - People and Culture - Priorities C & D
Why is this important?
There is NO independent body wholly outside the CFA that protects and enforces a volunteers’ rights at "work".
As well as firefighting, CFA volunteers spend many hours working in community engagement, administration, logistics, communications, training maintenance, medical services and fundraising roles.
Bullying in the CFA adversely effects communities, Brigades, friends, families and individuals. Please support the volunteers.
If you are bullied as a CFA volunteer, you are required to make your complaint either
1. through a chain of command, which in many cases involves or supports the bully within that chain of command, or
2. by reporting your complaint through the Bullying Hotline, contractors to the CFA, who then take it back to the chain of command.
We believe bullying practices must be stopped and perpetrators removed or disciplined. Volunteers have no means of avoiding the bullies other than to effectively withdraw from the CFA. This wastes the resources used in training and the experience gained by volunteers which helps keep country Victoria safe; this adversely affects community safety, support and engagement.
The workplace protection of CFA volunteers must:
1. be brought into line with principles of natural justice and included in legislation to ensure bullying behaviours are thoroughly investigated, the perpetrators neutralised and the behaviour stopped.
2. see all CFA managers trained in appropriate behavioural and personnel management practices to effect cultural changes for which they will be held responsible in the discharge of their duties as paid staff or volunteers
3. formally recognise and enforce operations in accordance with the CFA Code of Conduct, and
4. embrace and encode the objectives laid out in the Emergency Management Victoria Strategic Plan.
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