A young Orange firefighter has allegedly been stood down from Fire and Rescue NSW for refusing to travel to a COVID hotspot in Greater Sydney.
According to the Fire Brigade Employees' Union (FBEU) country representative Tim Anderson, the firefighter lives in Orange and prior to the latest COVID-19 outbreak, had been travelling to Sydney to work.
Following Sydney's lockdown, she had attempted to report to Orange Fire Station instead. On Monday, the day before Orange's own lockdown was announced, the union claims she was stood down - something Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is refuting.
"She was not happy [about having to return to Sydney] as she had some concerns about a family member," Mr Anderson said.
"So she attended work at Orange Fire Station and she was stood down and sent home.
"This is getting very serious. She's a relatively junior firefighter. I think she's been in the job a couple of years and she's obviously very upset about [losing her job].
"We don't understand why the fire brigade is taking this position," Mr Anderson added.
"There are so many spare firefighters in Sydney and there's plenty of work for her to do here in Orange."
The union has reportedly now referred the matter to the Industrial Relations Commission.
FBEU is also alleging that other Orange firefighters have been told to travel to other regions to work during the state's worsening COVID crisis - which the union attributed to the NSW government's poor funding of FRNSW.
"The fire brigade is left in a very difficult situation. They're not getting any extra resources to manage the pandemic, and yet the government's trying to impose those restrictions [on everyone except FRNSW] .... which is mad," Mr Anderson said.
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A FRNSW spokesperson has told the Central Western Daily that "claims that a firefighter from Orange has been stood down are incorrect".
The spokesperson added that the department is "open to being flexible and discussing suitable alternative options where there are genuine health, safety and wellbeing considerations".
"FRNSW has a process in place for firefighters to request alternate work arrangements. All requests are considered and assessed on an individual basis. Alternate work arrangements must be authorised in advance," they said.
FRNSW has some exemptions from Public Health Orders, including travel to and from regional areas, in order to keep delivering critical and emergency services.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers MLC Mark Banasiak has thrown his support behind the FBEU, claiming that professional firefighters in Dubbo, Tamworth, Bathurst and Wagga Wagga have similarly faced disciplinary action for refusing to leave their regions to work at other fire stations.
"Firefighters are in contact with multiple other firefighters throughout their shift. The chance of transmission is extremely high," he said.
"Firefighters are forced to choose between either standing down or being shunned by their community for putting them at risk."
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