WA firefighters turn up heat in push for pay increase


This is the first time since 2011 that firefighters have taken to parliament to fight for their rights. Picture: Nathan-lee Abrahams

Despite the risk posed by bushfires every summer, the WA Government has turned its back on firefighters who today marched on Parliament for better pay.

More than 500 firefighters and other union reps descended on Parliament House to send a message to Industrial Relations Minister William Johnston after he refused to move beyond a 3 per cent increase to wages per annum and a one-off cost of living payment of $3000.

The United Professional Firefighters Union is asking for a 5 per cent wage increase over a two-year period, along with improvements in super and an increase in permanent career fighters across the state.

Mr Johnston was met with anger as he addressed the crowd of firefighters.  He defended the state’s offer.

“I want to make it clear that we’ll continue to negotiate with the union with respect, regardless of how I am treated,” he said.

The crowd turned their backs to the minister and booed him, chanting he was a “joke”.

Following the chants, the minister said he was “in favour of unions”, but would that he would not hesitate to take this to arbitration.

“I’m from the Labor Party and I believe in compulsory arbitration, and I’m prepared to take this these matters to arbitration if that’s what the union wants to do,” he said.

United Professional Firefighters Union WA President Clem Chan blasted the threats of arbitration.

“Are they really suggesting they’re going to drag us into arbitration? Not a great look from Labor isn’t it?” he said.

Opposition emergency and former career firefighter Martin Aldridge addressed the rally declaring his support to the plight of the firefighters while lambasting the McGowan government.

“I stand with you in your fight for a better deal from this government. A government that just delivered its fourth consecutive multi-billion-dollar surplus – $4.2 billion to be precise… The government at the same time tells firefighters and the public sector they cannot afford more,” he said.

Mr Chan declared that the current offer did not address the 11 interest rate rises by the RBA and that the offer was a ‘slap in the face’ to the firefighters.