The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is seeking an immediate meeting with Defence Materiel Minister Mike Kelly over future shipbuilding jobs including 1100 Victorian positions at BAE Systems in Williamstown which are currently under threat.
“What the Federal Government needs to do is to meet with us urgently and to meet with the industry about how they can level out their acquisition program so that we can sustain the industry and actually grow the industry. “We know there are enormous opportunities in the naval ship building program,” said AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian.
The move by the AMWU comes as BAE Systems management has reportedly expressed concerns over a lack of assured work at Williamstown, with the possibility of the defence contractor scaling back its workforce.
Mr Bastian has formally written to Mr Kelly asking for meeting next week when an AMWU delegation of shipbuilding delegates and officials are in Canberra.
‘An AMWU shipbuilding delegates forum in March called for the ear-marked spend of $250 billion over the naval fleet’s lifetime to design, make and maintain 48 vessels here in Australia as the key to a wider transformation of design services, engineering and manufacturing across the country.’
AMWU revealed, Mr Kelly told ship delegates in Sydney that the shipbuilding schedule was “our modern day Snowy Mountains Scheme” with detail expected in a new White Paper to be released soon and followed up by a special Maritime Construction Industry report.
However, the minister was unable to give delegates any guarantee of new work at BAE Systems at Williamstown, where the so-called “valley of death” looms in the middle of this year between completion of the first Landing Helicopter Dock ship and the arrival of the second LHD from Spain, then little work from 2015.
BAE is looking for extra work on the new air warfare destroyers from the AWD alliance, comprising the defence Material Organisation, the Australian Submarine Corporation and Raytheon Australia.
Mr Bastian revealed this was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for high-end maritime engineering to build and sustain Australia’s shipbuilding industry for the next 100 years.
AMWU members have been invited to support the nation’s shipbuilding industry by sending an email to local MPs at www.makingourfuture.com.au/email-your-mp/