Pay dispute sparks sudden firefighter protest in busy Sydney CBD

  • Published March 6, 2024

The Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2024

In the latest union headache for the Minns government, Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles drove down busy Macquarie Street, sirens blaring, in a protest ignited after pay negotiations broke down.

Firefighters walked off the job and launched a sudden protest outside NSW Parliament House, after a breakdown in pay negotiations.

About 100 members of the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) took at least 15 Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles out of service for the march through the Sydney CBD on Wednesday morning.

FBEU state secretary Leighton Drury said firefighters left stations across Sydney to participate in the rally, which included vehicles and union members on foot travelling down a single lane of busy Macquarie Street with sirens blaring.

“The government are still not coming to the table and putting a deal on the table for us to even consider. Obviously firefighters are angry,” Mr Drury said.

“You see behind us that a number of firefighters have come off shift and we’ve unfortunately had to make the decision to take some stations offline to show how disgusted we are in this government,” Mr Drury said.

The union is demanding a 20 per cent pay increase baked in over three years, with Mr Drury saying members are willing to escalate their industrial action until they get a result.

The firefighters’ union was joined by Health Services Union state secretary Gerard Hayes, who last year helmed his organisation through a bitter pay dispute with the NSW Government.

“Last year should have taught everybody a lesson about good industrial relations. If the government hasn’t learned the lesson from last year, I don’t think this year is going to go very well for them,” Mr Hayes said.

The union received support from an unlikely source with senior Liberal MP Damien Tudehope, who clashed with unions during his time as finance minister, joining fireys at their parliament protest.

Industrial relations Minister Sophie Cotsis said discussions with the firefighters’ union were ongoing.

“I know that sitting down (and) bargaining, negotiating, (and) open and frank discussions is what is currently happening and we will have more to say in the not too distant future,” she said Wednesday.