A RAMSGATE man has described a firefighters' stopwork as "disgusting" while firies were hailing their first statewide strike in 56 years as "a massive success".
Kym Loutfy, of Ramsgate, rushed home from his takeaway store in Monterey on Thursday afternoon when his two-storey house caught fire.
Fire broke out in Mr Loutfy's home just as the Fire Brigade Employees Union started a landmark strike to protest against changes to workers' compensation.
Mr Loutfy said his house was well alight by the time the first truck arrived.
"It's a very bad service and a very unprofessional service," he said.
"When the fire brigade came after 45 minutes it took them 15 minutes to get the water going.
"It's not fair; it's disgusting."
Mr Loutfy's wife and three-year-old grandson were inside the house when it caught fire.
They were rescued by Freeman Arbuckle, a passer-by who said Mrs Loutfy was "obviously distraught".
Mr Arbuckle and his father Andrew said police had arrived on the scene before NSW Fire and Rescue crews, who were on strike.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze before handing the site over to the Rural Fire Service and an aviation fire team from Sydney Airport.
FIRE AND RESCUE RESPONSE
Fire & Rescue NSW said last Thursday in a media statement that NSW Police received a triple-0 call to a Sans Souci house at 1.02pm.
The call was immediately referred to the FRNSW Major Incident Coordination Centre at Alexandria, for resources to be dispatched.
During this time, two crews from Hurstville and one from Kogarah were on route to the industrial action in the Sydney CBD. They saw the smoke from the fire and immediately responded to the location. Crews were on scene within 13 minutes from the time of the call.
Firefighters conducted primary search and rescue and commenced firefighting operations. They then conducted a secondary search, remaining on scene until the arrival of personnel from the Aviation Rescue and Firefighting Service. They then proceeded to the industrial action.
Crews from Mortdale and Arncliffe, who were also on route to the industrial action, also responded to this fire, along with a fire truck from the training college in Alexandria - these resources were turned back by the FRNSW Duty Commander when the position was in hand.
NSW Fire and Rescue crews had voted earlier in the day to strike over changes to workers' compensation that protected some emergency workers, including police, but excluded firefighters.
A message from FBEU fire crews on Thursday described legislation before the state government as an "intolerable attack" and demanded that "no permanent or retained member is to respond to any incident" from 1pm, and that "there are no exemptions from this action".
NSW FBEU president, Darin Sullivan, said that the strike had been "a massive success".
The union's state secretary, Jim Casey, also told members afterwards that the protest had been worthwhile.
"Make no mistake, the media attention that your action generated fuelled the political pressure that followed," he said.
"Every firefighter who, from this day on, suffers a workplace injury, a regrettably inevitable fact of life in our profession, is now in your debt."
By Murray Trembath
Most workers will no longer receive compensation if they are injured travelling to or from work under the amended WorkCover scheme.
To be eligible, they will have to prove ‘‘a real and substantial connection’’ between the accident and their work.
In another change, workers will not be able to claim their legal costs in WorkCover disputes, even if they win.
The new laws also cap benefits and medical expenses for injured workers, although there will be no change for the most seriously injured.
Needing the votes of Christian Democrat MPs to get the changes through Parliament, Premier Barry O’Farrell agreed at the 11th hour to exempt firefighters and paramedics, as well as police who, originally, were to be the only group to receive special consideration.
Mr O’Farrell said the scheme was $4 billion ‘‘in the red’’, and without changes, would become financially unviable.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said the legislation was a tragedy to anyone who believed in a fair safety net for workers.
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