'Just the beginning': Firefighters ready for battle over conditions

It will be at least two weeks before Canberra firefighters start any industrial action as part of a dispute with the Emergency Services Agency over their employment conditions.

United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville said his members were prepared for a protracted battle, warning it was "just the beginning" as firefighters pushed for the money from a 10 per cent pay rise they rejected to instead be invested in the fire service.

United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville, left, with firefighters outside Fyshwick Fire Station on Thursday morning. Photo: Karleen Minney

United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville, left, with firefighters outside Fyshwick Fire Station on Thursday morning. Photo: Karleen Minney

Dozens of firefighters wearing union T-shirts and carrying flags stood with Mr McConville outside the Fyshwick Fire Station on Thursday morning as he spoke of nearly two years of "frustrating" enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations.

The commission is set to rule on the application on Friday morning, having listed the case for a hearing in Melbourne.

Should the application be approved, the Australian Electoral Commission would hold a secret ballot of the more than 330 United Firefighters Union members in the ACT.

For industrial action to be authorised, at least half the eligible members would need to participate, and at least half of those taking part would need to vote in favour.

The union would then have to give the Emergency Services Agency at least three days' notice before members could commence action.

"There won't be any industrial action for at least two weeks," Mr McConville said on Thursday, reiterating his assertion that public safety would not be compromised because firefighters would continue responding to emergencies.

Mr McConville said he was confident his members would vote in favour of industrial action because they had "almost unanimously" rejected an enterprise bargaining agreement offer made by the Emergency Services Agency in December.

He said the offer contained a 10 per cent pay rise, which members turned down because it would have required firefighters to give up key conditions including that the union agree with the agency on a number of standards around fire stations, equipment, recruitment and training.

"Firefighters did this because their priority is the safety of the people of the ACT," Mr McConville said.

"They've said, 'Keep the pay rise. Invest in safety instead'.

"Instead of this additional 10 per cent pay rise, firefighters want money put into measures that would enhance community safety, such as additional firefighters, improved emergency response and training.

"This decision has not been made lightly."

The union believes ACT Fire and Rescue needs an extra 204 firefighters in the next four years to cope with increasing demand, staff new and upgraded fire stations, and to improve firefighter training.

The Emergency Services Agency, which oversees ACT Fire and Rescue, declined to comment on the issue on Thursday.

On Wednesday, commissioner Dominic Lane said the agency would continue to work with the union and abide by any Fair Work Commission rulings.

Mr Lane said he would also be seeking the union's assurance that any industrial action would not compromise public safety.

It is understood the agency raised the issue of public safety in meetings with the union and both parties' lawyers on Thursday afternoon.

Mr McConville said the union had assured the agency that public safety would not be placed in jeopardy by industrial action, and further reassurances were unnecessary.