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Bush fires: lets not forget volunteers « Previous | |Next »
January 29, 2003

Today is a day of extreme fire danger with temperatures over 40 degrees, low humidity and strong gusty north winds in both SA and north western Victoria. Tomorrow, Thursday, is expected to be worse, expecially for the Victoria Alps.

The recent fires---more like infernos---that devastated Canberra, and are currently causing havoc in the Victorian Alps, have been, and are primarily fought by volunteer fire fighters. They are part of organizations such as the Victorian CFA or the CFS in SA.

The volunteer fire fighters provide this public service on their own time, with the support of their employers. When they are fighting bush fires for extended periods, such as the three weeks in the Victoria's north west, they do so by taking annual leave or rostered days off. Often they have bought the second fire truck through their own fund raising.

The Commonwealth and State governments celebrate them as heroes and the public is thankful for saving their porperty and lives.

But no compensation is forthcoming. This is volunteer work, even when SA volunteers travel to Victoria or NSW to help fight bush fires. Something more is needed than admiration, celebration and gratitude. Why not some financial compensation for a public service performed by taking annual leave or rostered days off?

No sir, say the employers, such as Steven Smith of the Australian Industry Group. This is an additional cost to business and is unfair to business. The Commonwealth Government calls on business to treat volunteer fire fighters leniently. Why so?

Unless the boss is lenient and generous workers are docked for time off the job when they are emergency volunteers.

Its a simple matter of justice. It should be a condition of employment that emergency volunteers pay continues they they are fighting bush fires to save lives and family homes. Gvoernments should help to pick up the tab.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

Surely some medals and a march are enough? You can only push this community thing so far before it becomes Communism! Just put down any compensation for duties, injury or death as externalised cost! ;P

dj,
Conservatives do have a contradictory stance to civil society.

On the one hand it is more than the free market, is what binds society together, and plugs the gaps in the welfare state.

So they dump lots of responsibilities onto the volunteer sector in the name of small govenment.

But they refuse to fund the volunteer sector so that it can carry out these responsibilites. Neo-liberal meanness?

The contradictions are covered up by medals & celebrating mateship and heroism--as you point out.