Sickies Error A Slur On Firefighters

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4th December 2009, 12:15pm - Views: 1143

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MEDIA RELEASE Friday December 4 2009


The United Firefighters Union will immediately seek to correct misinformation at yesterday’s Royal

Commission hearings that 46 professional firefighters were unexpectedly absent on Black Saturday.

Some media reports have incorrectly extrapolated this to suggest that 15 per cent of Victoria’s professional

firefighters took sickies that day.

Official figures made available late yesterday after the Royal Commission hearings show that there were 15

MFB firefighters sick on Black Saturday.  Ten of these saw a doctor, and five did not provide a medical

certificate.  (A medical certificate is not required for three sick days a year.)

The 15 firefighters who actually were unexpectedly off work represent about .6 of one per cent of the MFB’s

total force, or 2.5 per cent of the 600 rostered to work that day (in two shifts of about 300).

This is in line with national absence rates of 2-4 per cent.

In addition to the 15 firefighters that were sick that day, one was on accrued leave, 11 were on planned

family leave, two were on a training course, seven were on long service leave, nine were on WorkCover

payments, and one was on military leave.

UFU National Secretary Peter Marshall says firefighters are angry at suggestions they shirked their duty on

Black Saturday.

“Firefighters – whether professional or volunteer – are passionate about their work, and dedicated to

protecting the community,” he said.

“The misinformation at the Royal Commission yesterday, the woeful response of the MFB to this data, and

the subsequent media reports are a slur on Melbourne’s firefighters.

“These firefighters were ready and keen to serve on Black Saturday, but frustrated by the chaos of that day.

Many waited idly on the fringe for permission to join the battle.  One crew waited 5 hours at Whittlesea

before being deployed to fight the fire.

“We will seek immediately to have the Royal Commission correct yesterday’s discussion on absence rates.

“We don’t blame the media for reporting what they’re told, but we hope they’ll now correct the damaging

impressions that resulted from yesterday’s evidence by MFB chief fire officer Tony Murphy.”

For more information

Peter Marshall, National Secretary, United Firefighters Union

0419 127 004

Greg Pargeter, Senior Industrial Officer, United Firefighters Union

0425 790 676

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