Volunteers fighting the current national bushfire crisis around Australia should receive compensation for their time, according to leading industrial advocate Miles Heffernan.
His comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced some volunteers would become eligible for payments to compensate them for lost income during time away from their regular employment.
The bushfire payments
Earlier this month, Scott Morrison announced some volunteer firefighters in New South Wales would be eligible for $300 a day with up to a maximum of $6,000 pay overall.
The compensation will apply only to self-employed volunteers or those who work for small and medium size businesses, leaving firefighters who work for bigger corporations empty handed.
Since the announcement, similar compensation arrangements have been made for volunteers in Victoria and South Australia.
These are exceptional circumstances
Leading industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Industrial Relations Claims said in normal circumstances, volunteers should not be paid, but these are exceptional circumstances.
“The reality is that this is a very extreme situation — and this isn’t people doing minor work,” he said.
“These are volunteer firefighters holding a hose fighting a wall of fire, some have been doing it day after day for weeks on end.
“So on this particular rare occasion, as a one off, they deserve to get some small compensation while their lives are on hold.”
Mr Heffernan scoffed at suggestions made by conservative commentators like News Corp’s Peta Credlin that paying the volunteer firefighters would “open the floodgates” and lead to all volunteers lining up wanting to be paid.
“What utter bullshit,” he said. “You only have to look at Bondi beach — where there are the blue shirts who are paid by the council, and the red and yellow shirts who are volunteers — every single week.
“Despite the paid posers in the blue shirts appearing on Bondi Rescue, the red and yellow shirts turn up in abundance every weekend to volunteer.”
If you are not being paid your correct wages and entitlements, we can help. Please call Industrial Relations Claims on 1300 853 837 or visit irclaims.com.au
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