Emergency volunteers may lose training protection, says NSW Premier

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Emergency volunteers may lose training protection, says NSW Premier

NSW Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteers could lose their right to paid time off work while they train for bushfires, floods and storms under the Federal Government’s new IR laws, NSW Premier Morris Iemma has claimed.

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NSW Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service volunteers could lose their right to paid time off work while they train for bushfires, floods and storms under the Federal Government’s new IR laws, NSW Premier Morris Iemma has claimed. 

‘With the bushfire season now upon us, we face the real prospect that volunteer fire fighters and State Emergency Service workers will be stripped of their award protection,’ Iemma said.

‘What guarantees are there that these volunteers will not lose their ability to participate in vital training activities or continue to be paid while they are on emergency exercises?’ he asked.

Iemma said NSW has 10,000 SES volunteers and 70,000 Rural Fire Service volunteers.

‘Many volunteers have their Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service activities protected in their industrial awards, which allows them time off work to participate in training exercises,’ he said. 

Not protected provisions

Iemma said that under the Commonwealth’s IR legislation these activities will not be protected and may be negotiated away. 

(Under the new legislation only five matters, such as sick pay and hours of work, cannot be bargained away when negotiating agreements, and the Federal Government wants to move all workers from awards onto agreements.) 

‘That means workers who serve their communities fighting bushfires and cleaning up in the wake of storms and floods will no longer have award protection for participating in training,’ he said.

‘At the 50th anniversary of the State Emergency Service on Saturday, volunteers expressed their concerns to me that their participation in the SES could be seriously compromised under the Commonwealth’s industrial agenda.’

The Premier said there were a number of awards that protected the right of workers to participate in volunteer emergency services training including the Federal awards which cover rail employees and staff working at NSW utilities like Sydney Water.

‘John Howard’s industrial agenda will put these volunteer services at risk,’ Iemma said.

The NSW Government will challenge the Commonwealth’s legislation in the High Court.

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