Subordinates offered lifeline but no guarantees for local jobs

Subordinates offered lifeline but no guarantees for local jobs

Prime Minister Steven Marshall has promised new roles for “some or all” of the 350 Naval Group employees in South Australia, whose jobs have been questioned by yesterday’s “major turning point” in Australia’s submarine contract, but the government is still unclear whether a local employment component can now be protected.

Shipbuilder ASC today contacted Navy workers with chair Bruce Carter, who stated that 150 roles were waiting to be filled right now, with many more to follow in the wake of yesterday’s confirmation that the Collins Class maintenance program would remain in SA.

“The ASC is committed to finding roles for skilled shipbuilders affected by this announcement,” he said after Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday tore up Australia’s contract with Naval to build a fleet of 12 attack classes, instead committing to an 18-month reconnaissance before a new agreement is reached to build a fleet of nuclear-powered subs instead.

“We have implemented a process that will allow all affected employees to switch to positions within ASC or the wider industry.”

Carter said “ASC supports this industry and is pleased that the uncertainty that has been in our industry in relation to a few issues has been clarified”.

“We now have a way forward to develop a completely new industry in this country [and] we will look very closely at what is happening at Naval and other areas involved in the attack class, ”he said.

“We will contact all the people involved in it and welcome them to the ASC if they want to come here.”

Marshall said his “strong message to [Naval workers] we want you to stay in SA ”.

“Of course we know these are tough times in the Naval Group at the moment – the workforce is obviously shocked by this news,” he told reporters at ASC’s Osborne shipyards today.

“But the team at ASC is reaching out now, and they want to take all – or some – of the staff down here because there’s so much work coming.”

Asked to clarify, he repeated, “All or all.”

“The reality is that we need every single person, hands on deck, at the moment,” he said.

“We definitely stand shoulder to shoulder with the Naval Group and will give them every opportunity to stay here in SA.”

But while much was made of an obligation for a 60 per cent quota of local jobs in the French subs agreement, Marshall and SA senator and government senate leader Simon Birmingham were non-binding on whether a similar job guarantee could be replicated in the next contract.

“Well, of course there is still a huge amount work to be done in terms of exactly and exactly what this new submarine capability is going to be, ”Marshall said.

“But the federal government has already modeled that by 2030 there will be 5,000 people working here in SA on these new programs and platforms … we have a fantastic ecosystem for local shipbuilding as well as many other areas of the defense industry.

“The federal government will, of course, answer what the new contract arrangements are … but what I do know is that SA has the very best in terms of workforce, but also in terms of supply chain.”

He said yesterday’s announcement was “about sharpening our defenses as a nation”.

“It was a big, important focal point as a nation,” he said.

“In many ways, what we have in our state at the moment is a lack of skills – there are so many jobs, just so many jobs in SA.”

He insisted he had already made calls from defense industry companies interested in hiring displaced naval workers.

“We have been told by companies that they need these people,” he said.

“They are eager to work with the Naval Group and transition people [and] We work with Defense SA to find each one a job. ”

Birmingham was also wise on job guarantees, but said “Britain and the United States have taken this on board from country to country, not from company to company … because they want to see the capacity established in Australia not just for owning and operating nuclear submarines, but for to be able to build and maintain them ”.

“I have absolute confidence that the partnership will deliver the maximum possible industrial content to Australian companies … because the maximum capacity is crucial to sustainability in the long run,” he said.

Carter said there would be strong local content, even without a contractual obligation.

“We’re an island – you have to have the highest local content,” he said.

“It’s no use having spare parts in other parts of the world, and then you can not get them here.”

He said that in the current Collins-class submarines, 90 percent of the components were built locally.

“It’s not a question of contracts, it’s just the strategic capacity,” he said.

“If you are an island, you need to be able to build all the parts that make up a submarine here [and] I am sure that once these machines and these boats are designed, the original capacity will be top notch.

“There will be no need to build them into a contract … you have to build to maintain.”

But Carter was unequivocal as to exactly how many naval workers would be able to be hired from the broader workforce in the near term.

“We’re going to have to take on a whole new infrastructure and a plan to bring these people in,” he said.

He urged employees to leave their information to the ASC via his website, but noted “we need to work through our own work plan”.

“But it’s really important to keep this team together,” he said.

Carter was also unsure of exactly what the role of the ASC may be in the nuclear submarine program, but was adamant “we already have existing relations in the United States and Britain through Collins”.

“The ability and technical skills lie within the ASC [so] I wanted to be sure that ASC will have a role, a strong role in what comes down the line, ”he said.

“But it’s not developed yet, and it’s still a while.”

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