4. Potential barriers impacting reform implementation

This section outlines issues and risks arising from instruments that impact Fire Services Reform implementation, with many of these issues stemming from the secondment arrangements established by the reform.

FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22 observed impacts

In FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, FSIM noted several process-related issues impacting secondees’ ability to do their jobs effectively.[6] To address these issues, FRV established a Secondment Management Department to support the management of FRV personnel seconded to CFA in the FY 2022-23. The department focused on supporting FRV seconded staff and maintaining governance and financial administration of matters relating to seconded staff.

FSIM notes that this Secondment Management Department has provided seconded staff with clarification on processes and procedures and addressed many individual secondee issues (e.g., pay issues, access to FRV policies and access to digital communications).

FSIM’s FY 2022/23 observed impacts

This section comments on the external and reform-driven structural elements impacting Fire Services Reform implementation. Structural elements, such as the Secondment Agreement, have significantly impacted the fire services agencies’ progress in delivering several implementation plan actions, particularly actions 3.9, 5.1 and 5.4 (and their interdependent actions). FSIM considers these actions fundamental to whether the reform will ultimately meet its stated outcomes to ensure “an effective and productive working relationship across the fire services and other emergency service agencies, building on the principle of interoperability” (Priority Three) and “ensuring the future sustainability of the fire services” (Priority Five).

FSIM provides this summary in anticipation of further assessment work in Year Four (FY 2023-24), where it will seek specific, verifiable, measurable and documented evidence from the agencies to assess and demonstrate the impact of these potential barriers on reform. With the benefit of three years of post-reform operational data and a better understanding of the unintended consequences of these structural elements, FSIM will be able to quantify the impact on effective service delivery and the community.

1. Legislative barriers

Various staff and assets were transferred from CFA to the newly established FRV as part of the Fire Services Reform. Agencies developed an Overarching Operational Services Agreement (OOSA), Service Level Deed of Agreements (SLDAs), and various supporting documents to set out how specific legislative obligations of the fire services would be performed. While agencies executed the overarching documents, further work was required by agencies to operationalise the arrangements agreed in the OOSA and SLDAs.

Under the current legislative arrangements, CFA is unable to delegate end-to-end responsibility for three of the six SLDAs. Change to several legislative instruments is required to enable clear end-to-end service delivery as envisaged by the transfer of functions and staff to FRV at the initiation of the reform. These legislative issues apply to functions relating to dangerous goods, land use planning and caravan parks in the CAoV. FSIM notes more specific service delivery impacts relating to legislative barriers in actions 3.9 and 3.10, but broadly, FSIM has observed a declining trend in the time taken for referrals for these services since the establishment of reform, largely due to the current shared workarounds between agencies (i.e., FRV delivering services with CFA providing final assessment and sign-off).

2. Secondment Agreement and the Fire Rescue Victoria Operational Employees Interim Enterprise Agreement 2020

On 31 October 2020, CFA and FRV executed the Secondment Agreement, a core agreement underpinning the Fire Services Reform. The Secondment Agreement outlines arrangements to make FRV operational staff available to CFA to provide operational and management support to volunteers. The Secondment Agreement specifies minimum staffing levels agreed to between CFA and FRV and lists the rank, position number and location of the five classifications of FRV operational staff that are seconded to CFA. These classifications comprised 45 ACFOs, 96 Commanders, 53 Instructors, eight PAD Supervisors, and 21 PAD Operators. Secondees are employed by FRV and are governed by the employment conditions of their relevant Enterprise Agreement (EA) and when seconded to CFA, their work is under the command and control of the CO, CFA.

Five implementation plan actions are directly impacted by the intersection between the secondment model and the FRV Operational EA; all focus on firefighter capability. The actions impacted are noted in Table 6, and further details of the specific impacts are available at each action summary.

Table 6: Actions with interdependencies with Secondment Model and the Fire Rescue Victorian Operational Employees Interim Enterprise Agreement 2020

Action LeadAction
CFAAction 3.8: CFA, in collaboration with FRV, to develop protocols to ensure all FRV seconded training staff satisfy CFA’s Registered Training Organisation (RTO) obligations and requirements.
CFA and FRVAction 3.9: Where practical and appropriate, finalise harmonisation of procedures, including service level procedures between CFA and FRV and any related party to ensure the agreements support effective operations. [7]
FRBAction 4.2: Establish capability standards to support the secondment arrangements, the firefighters register, application processes and transparent appeals processes.
CFAAction 5.1: CFA in consultation with FRV develops and maintain a secondment strategy that details CFA’s capability and capacity needs for those resources sourced from FRV.
FRVAction 5.4: Develop a Strategic Workforce Plan for operations with a strong focus on regional and remote delivery of services.

3. Agency application of agreed consultation workflow

CFA and FRV undertake consultation activities to develop and finalise SLDA schedules and Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments. For decisions impacting the terms and conditions of FRV employees, under the FRV Operational EA, FRV is obligated to consult and reach consensus with the United Firefighters Union of Australia – Victoria Branch (UFU) before implementing SLDA schedules and Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments.[11]

These consultation activities occur between stakeholders in a range of ways:

  • CFA with FRV: agencies working together at the officer level to determine a draft in-principle position
  • FRV with UFU via Consultative Committee working groups: FRV presenting CFA/FRV agreed in principle position to a relevant working group of the Consultative Committee for discussion and negotiation
  • FRV and CFA: agencies working together to discuss working group feedback and establishing a final agreed in-principle position for HoA endorsement
  • FRV with Consultative Committee: FRV presenting the final CFA/FRV agreed position to the Consultative Committee, seeking consensus on that position before implementation.

As noted in FSIM’s Annual Report 2021/22, these consultation processes contributed to delays in finalising some arrangements. These arrangements continue to present a considerable challenge for agencies in committing to positions agreed in principle at the executive level, where there is a subsequent requirement to consult with the UFU and reach an agreement with those positions.

To clearly define the consultation processes between agencies and with the UFU, CFA and FRV in FY 2022-23 developed a workflow to outline the approval process for SLDA schedules and Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments. This workflow was approved at an HoA meeting in April 2023. Additional detail on the consultation workflow is available at action 3.9.

FSIM supports CFA and FRV efforts to provide greater clarity and transparency on consultation and the broader approval process. FSIM also notes additional clarity between agencies within the steps of this process – particularly the ‘Key Stakeholder Engagement’ step – would likely help address delays and provide CFA assurance that FRV is advocating on behalf of the agency-agreed position. Greater clarity throughout the workflow is helpful for successfully delivering supplementary instruments and schedules and should support effective collaboration between agencies.


Footnotes

[6] Fire Services Implementation Monitor, 2023, Fire Services Implementation Monitor Annual Report 2021/22, Victorian Government, viewed 21 September 2023, https://content.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-03/FSIM-Annual-Report-2021-22.pdf, pg.7.

[7] FSIM notes that CFA and FRV interpret the scope of this action differently. CFA includes the progress of Secondment Agreement supplementary instruments in reporting against this action whereas FRV does not. This issue is further detailed in Action 3.9.

[8] CFA/FRV Secondment Agreement, section 7(a)

[9] CFA/FRV Secondment Agreement, section 3.2

[10] CFA/FRV Secondment Agreement, section 12(a)

[11] Fire Rescue Victoria Operational Employees Interim Enterprise Agreement 2020, section 16.

Updated