on air now

‘Absolutely fine’: MFB boss denies relationship with powerful UFU has disintegrated

MFB chief fire officer Dan Stephens has denied his relationship with union boss Peter Marshall has disintegrated, despite the United Firefighters Union hitting out at a “budget-cutting mentality” in the fire services.

Mr Stephens told Neil Mitchell he thought the relationship was a “pretty good” one.

But in a letter to MPs last week, the union accuses management of budget cutting measures.

The MFB’s annual report is yet to be tabled in parliament, but Mr Stephens said he believed there was a backlog of 100 or so reports yet to be tabled.

Neil: The union leader you have a good relationship with, you say, he says there’s a $12 million cut to the heavy fleet, you say that’s wrong. A 57 per cent cut to operational training, $1 million cut to the small fleet, is that right?

Mr Stephens: The small fleet issue, is asset refresh in relation to capital, that spending would vary each year.

Neil: Let’s cut to it, is he using this stuff to wind it up, I mean why is he quoting these things? If you read the message he sent to all politicians and to his members, it’s cut time within the fire brigade, and you are doing it.

Mr Stephens: You’d need to speak to the UFU or Peter. What I can say is, Peter and I are in regular contact, we discuss lots of issues, budget being one of them. As far as I’m concerned, our relationship is absolutely fine.

Click PLAY to hear the wide-ranging interview with the new MFB boss

Mr Stephens also said he hasn’t been allowed to read the controversial report into bullying and sexual harassment within the state’s fire services.

Last week, the Court of Appeal sided with the union, keeping the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report secret.

He said he hasn’t seen any evidence of widespread bullying and sexual harassment in his short time at the helm but has acknowledged there are still issues surrounding workplace culture that need to be addressed.

He warned the October rainfall would be critical to the upcoming fire season.

“As it stands currently, it has been extremely dry in parts of Victoria, certainly Gippsland, and the areas bordering NSW, the potential clearly is there for a challenging season,” he said.