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  • CFSVA Briefing - Sector Reform Fears

     

     “Structural Reform Fears”

    19th January 2015

     

    Background

     

    The SACFS is a 14,000 strong emergency workforce supported by a staff of 100 people, that represents over 80% of the emergency workforce in South Australia. The SA Government started a Structural Reform process in July 2014 with the view to create a new structure embracing CFS, MFS & SES. To this point, each of the agencies has operated autonomously with the linking piece being SAFECOM which supplied shared administrative & support functions to the three agencies. The reform idea was based on a report by Paul Holloway (2013) that highlighted issues with what was then ESAU (SAFECOM’s predecessor) but also highlighted that the three agencies operated well autonomously & also when working collaboratively on the frontline.

     

    Flawed Process

     

    The CFSVA has worked tirelessly within the agenda & direction of the Emergency Services Minister to this point but has serious reservations about the process & its consequential outcomes in terms of support for & the functioning of the SACFS. Issues within the process include –

     

    • No business case – Premier Weatherill & Minister Piccolo have no case – either financial or efficiency – for the reform;
    • Poor consultation – the Minister has attended meetings around the state with volunteers & paid staff. At the majority of those meetings the most that was presented to the audience was a hand drawn diagram on the whiteboard with himself at the top, regions at the bottom & an empty inverted triangle in the middle representing a merged department to provide support to regions. With virtually no detail, no one could present an argument for or against the process nor offer constructive feedback;
    • Despite having no business case or proper consultation the SA Government has moved to dissolve the positions of Chief Officer for each of CFS, MFS & SES;
    • Lack of transparency – of the three major players (CFS, MFS, SES) we have seen opinion (submissions) from staff & volunteers of CFS & SES as well as staff form MFS. The CFSVA & SESVA have made their submissions public but there has been absolutely no comment publicly by the UFU & nor has anyone seen a submission from the UFU. The Minister advises that the UFU did not put in a submission.

     

    Risks

     

    The SACFS operates highly efficiently with a minimal budget, covering over 90% of the state, has over 80% of the state’s emergency workforce & operates at one twentieth of the cost per head than its paid counterpart (MFS). CFS volunteers contributed conservatively over $ 30M of labour to SA last fire season. As a result of a flawed process, the following risks exist –

     

    • By meddling with a service that has proved its worth at Bangor last year & more recently Sampson Flat fires, there is potential to place SA communities at significant risk;

    • Any action that erodes the effectiveness of CFS will likely result in increases in cost to run the service & cause further increases in the ESL as well as increasing risk to South Australians;

    • By dissolving the positions of Chief Officer for each of the agencies (without agreement on the model & use of a flawed process) Premier Weatherill & Minister Piccolo are both compromising the identity of the CFS & destroying a well functioning organisation – without reason;

    • A lack of transparency, particularly in relation to the UFU which has a national reputation as a hard union, is a significant risk to CFS volunteers. Recent interstate experiences (particularly Victoria) back this up.

     

    Action

     

    The CFS volunteers (via the CFSVA) are asking that Premier Weatherill & Minister Piccolo –

     

    • Cease the Structural Reform process including the dissolution of the positions of Chief Officer until firm agreement & understanding can be reached;

    • Produce a business case including costings, identified benefits if they exist, a workforce planning model for the process;

    • Transparently provide all documents relating to the reform as supplied by the respective agencies;

    • Ensure maintenance of the CFS operational structure as a single identity from the newest fire fighter to the Chief Officer;

    • Refocus the reform as per the Holloway report to address the proper functioning of the administrative & support functions of the three agencies.

     

    How You Can Help ?

     

    We need to galvanise the public of South Australia & members of the SACFS to send a clear & direct message to Premier Weatherill & Minister Piccolo that in its current form the reform process is dangerous & stands to place the public of SA at significant risk. We ask that you write letters, lobby your local politician, galvanise community groups, spread the message via social media & make your point known on talkback radio.

     

    Action is required urgently as the SA Government is moving rapidly to implement its flawed plan.

     

    If there are any questions or you need help to help us, contact details are provided below.

     

     

     

     

    Sonia St Alban

     

    Executive Director

     

    Country Fire Service Volunteers Association

     

    Email: sonia.stalban@cfsva.org.au

     

    Mob:  0408 133 349

     

     

     

    Media Contact:

     

    Robert Styling AFSM

     

    Mobile: 0411 701 529                     

     

  • CFSVA Media Release January 15 2015

     MEDIA RELEASE

     

     

    Thursday 15

     

     

    January 2015

     

     

    EMERGENCY SERVICES SECTOR REFORM

     

     

     

     

    An increasing number of CFS volunteers are expressing concerns that the Weatherill Government’s emergency sector reform may compromise the integrity of CFS and the high standard of emergency response CFS volunteers currently provide to South Australia. Volunteers fear that under the government’s proposed structure the experience and expertise recently provided by CFS to fight the Sampson Flat fire may become a thing of the past.

     

    In 2014 the State Government initiated an emergency sector reform to address the recommendations of the Holloway (2013) report. The Holloway report indicates that the operational components of CFS, SES and MFS are working well on the front line, both in their own right and collaboratively, however despite these findings State Cabinet recently endorsed the Emergency Sector Reform.

     

    Volunteers are concerned by the Weatherill government’s persistent determination to reform the emergency sector and insistence to drive the process without providing key detail to stakeholders.

     

    A number of CFS volunteers have expressed their frustration that after 6 months of "consultation" Minister Piccolo has not provided a business plan that justifies such a major upheaval of the emergency services.

     

    Volunteers fear that the State Government international search for a Commissioner of Emergency Services to replace the current Chief Officer of CFS, SES, MFS, and SAFECOM, by July 2015, prior to formulating a business plan, may be catastrophic for emergency services in South Australia.

     

    Recently the CFS Chief Officer Mr Greg Nettleton shared his concerns in regards to the proposed restructuring of the emergency services, a view that is shared by an increasing number of volunteers.

     

    Following extensive consultation by the Country Fire Service Volunteers Association the majority of CFS volunteers have indicated that they 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.

     

    Following the recent Sampson Flat fire, Premier Weatherill and Minister Piccolo must surely recognise that the greatest asset of emergency services in South Australia is the 15,000 volunteer emergency responders. It is both irresponsible and dangerous of the Weatherill Government to forge ahead with an emergency sector reform which is not fully supported by the majority of volunteers.

     

    CFS volunteers call on the Premier to halt the Cabinet endorsed emergency sector reform process until such time as a business plan and cost analysis is established and tabled in Parliament to enable both transparency and scrutiny.

     

    The future prosperity of CFS lies within South Australian communities, and volunteers fear that under the sector reform the safety of South Australian communities will be placed at risk as Government agendas are pursued without understanding the expert nature of the work undertaken by CFS and the other emergency service agencies.

     

    CFS is a highly esteemed emergency service agency, which should the emergency sector reform be allowed to continue without transparency will be lost to politically driven agendas.

     

    It is time for the Weatherill Government to explain to the people of South Australia the justification for this continual overwhelming desire by Government to reform the emergency sector, before the safety of South Australia is truly compromised and another South Australian icon The Country Fire Service is lost.

     

     

     

    Sonia St Alban

     

    Executive Director

     

    Country Fire Service Volunteers Association Inc

     

    Contacts for this Media Release:

     

    Roger Flavell Robert Styling AFSM

     

    President Mobile: 0411 701 529

     

    Country Fire Service Volunteers Association

     

    Mobile: 0427 362 741

     

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