The Guardian July 18, 2001

NSW firefighters disaffiliate from Labor

Last month, at a series of mass meetings, full-time firefighters 
employed by the NSW Government voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from 
the Australian Labor Party. The Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) has a 
membership of 6000. The disaffiliation is targeted at the State Premier and 
will remain effective "for as long as Bob Carr remains Premier in NSW".

The disaffiliation ends a history of political and financial support for 
the ALP dating back almost 80 years. It is a highly significant step in the 
increasingly strained relationships between right-wing Labor governments 
and the union movement.

The FBEU has fought for two years with the NSW Government for a return to 
their previous workers' compensation entitlements, which were the same in 
principle, if not in scale, as those still enjoyed by NSW parliamentarians.

The firefighters' entitlements were changed by the Carr Government so that 
new employees were forced to join a new and very inferior scheme.

The firefighters were further enraged when, in the midst of the dispute, 
the Carr Government attempted to cut off the automatic deduction of union 
dues from their pay packets.

They were eventually prompted to disaffiliate by the passing of the Carr 
Government's Workers' Compensation legislation and when some State ALP 
parliamentarians crossed a line of workers picketing NSW Parliament House 
over the workers' compensation issue.

FBEU State Secretary Chris Read later commented bitterly: "A Labor 
government doesn't cut workers compensation, and a Labor Premier certainly 
doesn't shove his fingers in the face of workers like he did on the steps 
of Parliament this week.

"His obvious preference for the big end of town over the welfare of injured 
workers, union members or not, means that this so-called 'Labor' Premier 
has to go."

He added: "We've been fighting for almost two years now for a fair go for 
firefighters killed or injured on the job, but this week was the final 
straw. While we might not be the first union to walk away from the ALP this 
week, we also hope we won't be the last."

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