Australian Officers Claim Union Intimidation Forced Them Off Job

Ten former officers with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in Melbourne, Australia are filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit accusing the MFB of allowing union members to bully, intimidate, and ultimately force them off the job.

The officers claim that the harassment began in 2002 after the plaintiffs applied for promotions against the United Firefighters Union’s wishes. Thereafter the ten were subjected to a relentless campaign of harassment that included threats of violence, frivolous complaints, being called names including “scabs” and ““wog c[word]”, and firefighters refusing to follow their directions. One officer claims he received a bullet in the mail.

According to the officers, before they took the promotions they were assured by MFB leadership that the department would not tolerate intimidation by the union. However, their concerns about the union’s harassment went unaddressed forcing them to leave the department prematurely.

The officers accuse the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board of violating the Fair Work Act. It is unclear from news reports whether the suit has been filed or will be filed in the near future. Here are two links about the story. Herald Sun. The Australian.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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