Defence paper overlooks manufacturing jobs, says union

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has slammed a discussion paper on the future of skills in Australia’s defence manufacturing industry as “too narrow”.

The Defence Industry Workforce Strategy paper, prepared by Skills Australia, was commissioned in September 2011 by the then Minister for Defence, Jason Clare.

According to the Background Paper, released in January this year, the report aims to “better position Australia’s Defence materiel supply industries to fully participate in opportunities for Australian Government Defence procurements through ensuring the availability of a more skilled workforce.”

AMWU TSA national secretary Mike Nicolaides said the paper has failed to consider the industry’s full range of occupations, including technicians and other manufacturing-related jobs.

“The paper does not adequately address the diversity of the Defence industry’s workforce. Nor does it address production employees, such as those that make ammunition and explosives, or technicians,” said Nicolaides.

Nicolaides said with Defence procurement expenditure to exceed $200 billion over the next 10 years, including the build of a new generation of submarines, it is imperative that a cohesive strategy is developed – and the measures suggested in the Skills Australia paper are not sufficient.

“If you don’t address the Defence industry in its entirety and links between different levels, from production to professions, then your strategies to improve skills will be flawed from the very start,” said Nicolaides.

“The paper looks at professionals and tradespeople as individuals and not team members. It is the experience of the AMWU that emphasis needs to be placed on well balanced and blended teams. Not on individuals.”

The AMWU has been calling on the government this year to refocus its attention on Australia's defence materiel industry, following $5.4 billion of defence budget cuts announced in May, which will result in various defence projects being shelved.

Various local defence manufacturers have been suffering at the hands of Australia's high dollar this year, including Thales, which sacked 200 workers from its Bendigo factory in February. At the time, the AMWU blamed the government's decision to source military utes from a German supplier, instead of supporting Thales' local manufacturing operation.

In April, industry unions released a whitepaper accusing the government of reneging their promise to provide funding to build the next generation of Australian Defence Force (ADF) submarines on local turf.

Manufacturers have been looking increasingly to overseas markets to secure contracts, with local market conditions making it difficult for manufacturers to find work locally.

In other news, the AMWU NSW secretary, Tim Ayres, has called on Clive Palmer and other mining giants to give local manufacturers a go instead of sending contracts for ships, trains and submarines overseas

[Image: defence.gov.au]