Forest policy fires up union

By DAVID BANCROFT dbancroft@dailyexaminer.com.au

BUSHFIRES in State Forests will be handled by inexperienced contractors with unclear directions under new State Forests policy, according to a union official.

Australian Workers Union North Coast organiser David Lyons said yesterday he had just been advised State Forests would be using a Coffs Harbour labour hire company to do its fire-fighting and possibly controlled burns in the region between Kempsey and the Queensland border and west to the ranges.

Mr Lyons said the existing State Forests workforce was well-trained, experienced and well-equipped for fire-fighting, and they worked under the direct command of State Forests.

"Who is going to supervise these people?," he said.

"They are not direct State Forests employees ... they are direct employees of the labour hire firm.

"We are told that they will be using State Forests clothing and footwear, but they are not State Forests employees.

"There has to be a community safety issue here.

"How well are these people going to be able to respond if a fire gets out of control?"

Mr Lyons said full-time State Forests workers had negotiated, as part of their employment contract, for firefighting duties and fire control to be part of their award.

"My concern is partly that they will be using the long-term unemployed for these positions so the labour hire company can get the government subsidies that are available," he said.

He said there was further concern that the assets of New South Wales would be managed by the long-term unemployed.

A dispute has been registered with the Industrial Commission.

State Forests did not return phone calls for com- ment.



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