Bendigo members of the United Firefighters Union of Australia and the Health and Community Services Union let Denis Napthine know they weren’t happy with him yesterday. As the Premier entered The Foundry Hotel Complex at noon the two groups of protesters chanted and booed. The UFU said the Premier had turned his back on the CFA by slashing their operational budget and failing to deliver on a promise made four years ago to employ a further 342 firefighters. Retired Bendigo firefighter and life member of the UFU, Barry Cole said fire stations were understaffed and under-resourced.
“The government is attacking our conditions,” he said.
“Firefighters have been working 12-hour shifts fighting the Morwell fire and they wouldn’t have to do this if we had the extra 342 people promised.” The firefighters also voiced their frustration that the government has refused to support the Fair Protection for Firefighters Bill, which would give firefighters who contract lung cancer and other serious diseases as a result of smoke exposure easy access to healthcare.
As for the HSCU, they were calling on the government to tell them what would happen to workers’ jobs when Bendigo’s Sandhurst Centre closes in June 2016. The Sandhurst Centre is one of the two remaining government-run disability institutions in Victoria. The government announced last year that it would close Sandhurst and commit $7.9 million to building new accommodation homes for the centre’s 29 residents.
But 316 days since the announcement, the government was yet to provide workers with details of who would run the new accommodation homes or whether staff will retain their employment conditions. Ross Muldoon, who worked at Sandhurst for 13 years before leaving this December, said staff were worried their new job roles would entail a pay cut.
“We are trying to make the Premier aware we are still waiting for certainty about Sandhurst,” Mr Muldoon said.
Dale Clayton, who has worked as a chef at the centre for 26 years, said he had been told he wouldn’t have a job once the centre closed.
“I feel very let down,” Mr Clayton said.