The Guardian February 17, 1999


Fire fighters turn up the heat

by Tom Pearson

On Wednesday February 10, hundreds of South Australian fire fighters 
marched down Adelaide's Victoria Square and along King William Street to 
Parliament House. Once there they handed over a petition containing almost 
20,000 signatures to Labor opposition leader Mike Rann to present to 
Parliament.

The action was part of a United Fire Fighters' Union campaign to defend the 
ongoing quality of the service and for a long-overdue wage rise for its 
members.

The petition, which was gathered in just three weeks, underscored the 
strong public support for the fire fighters' campaign.

"I have no doubt that if we allowed ourselves more time, we'd have an even 
larger stack of names to put before the Government", said the union's State 
Secretary, Mick Doyle.

"However, we don't have the time as enterprise negotiations have reached a 
crisis point and there's a real urgency to achieve a fair deal."

In addition, the union has good reason to believe that the Olsen Liberal 
Government has plans to privatise the service's communications system, with 
the first step being the relocation of the Communication Centre from 
Adelaide to Mt Barker, in the Adelaide Hills.

A government memo obtained by the union reveals that the move would result 
in staff cuts and the site of the current Communication Centre being sold. 
This would allow the new communications operators to set up at the new site 
and hire their own staff.

As a result, South Australia stands to lose experienced, expert fire 
fighting staff, skilled in communications and the tactics required in an 
emergency.

As for their pay claim  an 18 per cent rise in three instalments over 
three years  the union confirmed their position; that they will not 
accept the Government's offer of six per cent over three years.

"Fire fighters will not endanger public lives by going on strike, and the 
Government knows it", said Mick Doyle. "Which is why it's holding out on a 
fair deal." He said that fire fighters have been seeking their pay rise for 
eight months but the Government keeps on with its delaying tactics.

"It's time the Government realised that the public want the very very best 
fire fighting service. Delaying negotiations and holding back on a fair 
deal ultimately hurts the public. 

"Fire fighters put their lives on the line to save others  they deserve a 
fair deal and the public supports them in that."

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