The first wave of job cuts has hit Australia's shipbuilders as unions fear it signals a looming collapse in the industry.
8th Nov 2013
The first wave of job cuts has hit Australia's shipbuilders as unions fear it signals a looming collapse in the industry. BAE Systems and unions are eager to secure more defence building work for the Williamstown yards in Melbourne ahead of a big roll-back in navy work by 2015.
Workers have already been told 30 jobs among the site's boilermakers and welders will be cut in the coming days as current navy ship contracts slowly wind down to completion. AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian said the 30 job losses are the first of what could be 1100 jobs cut in Williamstown alone. Many more shipbuilding jobs across the country are at risk, he said, if the coalition government doesn't act quickly.
'This government has talked about creating jobs, but the time for talking is over,' he said.
'Workers are losing their jobs. The industry is losing skills. And it will only get worse from here.'
Williamstown is constructing hull blocks for the navy's three new air warfare destroyers (AWDs) and superstructure for two new landing helicopter dock (LHD) ships.
But the industry has warned of a 2015 'valley of death' - when these government contracts dry up and an entire skilled workforce is lost to redundancy.
Kaye Noske, a BAE Systems spokeswoman, said the company had pitched building a fourth AWD or navy patrol boats to the new defence minister in a bid to keep the Williamstown site running.
'We will continue to talk to the government about more work for the yard,' she said.
A spokeswoman for Defence Minister David Johnston said he was aware of the coming shipbuilding job shortfall.
'Senator Johnston is currently receiving advice and working closely with ... Australia's shipbuilding sector to avoid production troughs where possible,' she said.
A defence white paper will also help inform the roll-out of future shipbuilding contracts.