The AMWU has welcomed the Government’s decision to build Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) locally, but maintained that only a guaranteed involvement in the build of Australia’s new submarine fleet would prevent Australian shipyards from making further cuts to their workforce.
AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson said the build of 12 Offshore Patrol vessels will partially cover the production gap at ASC in Adelaide between finishing the air warfare destroyers in 2018 and starting the future frigate project from 2020.
“Of course, we are happy that the Federal Government has been persuaded to accept our view that the OPVs need to be built in an Australian shipyard, to provide a continuous build, though the decision is far too late for too many workers,” he said.
“The announcement is bitter sweet for our 1800 shipbuilders who have lost their jobs across Australia since the Coalition came to power in 2013.”
However, he also pointed out that the OPV build in Adelaide would still not generate sufficient work at ASC to prevent many more redundancies among the 1400 workers presently finishing the destroyers.
“What they need, what the country needs, is an unconditional guarantee by both sides of politics that the $50 billion build of 12 future submarines will be done totally in Australia and we are yet to hear that from the Turnbull Government,” he said.
“There are 800 jobs on the line in Adelaide alone and if Malcolm Turnbull wants to give confidence to skilled workers and the defence industry right across Australia, he must take the option of an overseas or hybrid build right off the table, right now.”
ASC shipbuilding delegate Glen Dallimore said the Government’s announcement was met with “cautious optimism” by workers.
“It’s a pre-election promise, we’ve had them before from politicians and there’s no signatures and no contracts as yet,” he said.
“We know that we have to keep up the pressure, the momentum, because things can go pear-shaped so easily and we’ve only got this far because of the union’s pressure. The valley of death is an ongoing reality here – we have redundancies every quarter on the AWD’s but the Offshore Patrol Vessels would keep the yard going, if that comes off.”
ASC delegate on submarines, Andy Daniels, said a maintenance gap in 2018 on the Collins-class subs would likely result in redundancies unless there was a definitive decision on the 12 future subs.
“We need an announcement that the subs will be built in South Australia, without any qualifications – that would make the big difference,” he said.