The role that public sector workers played in fighting the fire - and saving lives - has not received the recognition that it deserves. Public sector workers have been at the forefront of responding to the disaster.
Ottawa (13 Feb. 2009) - While deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of more than 180 people and the loss of millions of wildlife in the Australian fires, the National Union also wants to pay homage to the many public sector workers who struggled so hard fighting the fires.
James Clancy, national president of the 340,000 member National Union of Public and General Employees, said that "the role that public sector workers played in fighting the fire - and saving lives - has not received the recognition that it deserves. Quite literally public sector workers have been at the forefront of responding to the disaster."
"Many of these workers continue struggling on behalf of others even though they themselves have experienced tragedy as a result of the fire and while facing a very real threat to their own safety."
"I know that the work the women and men who work in emergency services do, every day in Canada and around the world, saves lives and protects the public. Far too often their heroic actions are never recognized," explained Clancy.
"When you see them rise to the challenge in these disasters you realize the deep commitment they have to public service. When you watch the video clip of a firefighter going the extra distance to save the life of an injured koala you realize the debt we all owe them."
Public Services International (PSI), the global union federation to which the National Union is affiliated, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) are among the union organizations that are seeking to draw attention to the heroism of these women and men.
David Carey, PSI Executive Board member released the following statement:
"Working through extremes, that would be unimaginable in most of our working lives, our friends and colleagues and public workers are working to save, protect and preserve vital public services while fighting the terror of the fires. While many public workers have suffered the worst possible personal loss themselves they work on. They are working to heal and counsel the injured and bereaved. They are feeding and clothing the displaced. They are housing thousands who have lost homes.
They are being literal heroes - there is no other word- in the face of horror and trauma on a scale never seen in Australia.
Our movement, the trade union movement, tens of thousands of other public sector workers and the whole community thank you and praise you.
You are emblems of the selflessness and community we aspire to be.
We are with you, in our prayers for your safety, our hope for your recovery.
You are making unbelievable sacrifices and your deeds prove again our faith in human decency. You are our colleagues and friends. We hope our thoughts for you are some comfort."
The ACTU has set up a special page on its website to provide up to date information about unions’ support for bushfire victims. Concerned individuals can also go the Australian Red Cross website that has launched a special appeal.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE