Victorian fires demand 26 percent pay rise

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The Victoria fire union is pushing for a hefty pay increase to keep up with rising inflation and to retain staff.

The United Firefighters Union launched its new Business Agreements (EBA) campaign on Thursday, demanding real wage increases amid pressures on the cost of living.

The claim concerns a 25.9 percent wage increase between 2022 and 2025, averaging 8.6 percent per year.

The union says demand is in line with consumer price index (CPI) movements, as annual inflation is expected to reach 7.8 percent by the end of 2022.

But the Reserve Bank of Australia has tipped annual inflation to 4.3 percent in 2023 and then three percent in 2024.

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“It is essential that firefighters’ wages keep pace with CPI increases to ensure firefighters are retained,” the UFU said.

UFU Victorian Branch Secretary Peter Marshall said some will call the demand “outrageous” but insists it won’t put increasing pressure on households.

“It comes from (the) fire levy,” he told assembled firefighters and reporters during a presentation.

“The money is already there. They just need to pass it on to the people who respond.”

As part of the EBA’s claim, professional firefighters will also call on the Victorian Government to provide additional funding to replace aging fire engines, for specialist equipment and to increase training capacity.

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“Fire safety and public safety go hand in hand. The new venture agreement will achieve both,” said Mr Marshall.

“Right now we have 15 obsolete trucks that are still being used for emergency relief and need to be replaced.”

Other achievements on the UFU’s agenda include a mechanism to attract diverse applicants, increase the number of cultural and community engagement officers from five to eight, and increase support for firefighters to retire.

The union was a key ally when the Andrews administration came to power in 2014, but the relationship has since deteriorated following disputes over the restructuring of the state fire service and suspected cancer rights.

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Meanwhile, the Victorian coalition has pledged $75 million to redevelop Daylesford Hospital in Melbourne’s northwest as part of its latest health-focused election pledge.

The redevelopment will include an 18-bed acute ward for medical and surgical admissions, more space for dialysis, improved and expanded aged care, palliative care and respite care.

It is the latest in a series of hospital construction or upgrade pledges that the coalition plans to fund by suspending Melbourne’s multimillion-dollar Suburban Rail Loop.

“Reprioritizing money from that railway to this hospital is going to save lives,” opposition leader Matthew Guy told reporters in Daylesford.

– MONKEY

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