Australian shipbuilding workers have stepped up protests against the national government over the future of navy shipbuilding, threatening thousands of jobs in 2015.
Hundreds of workers in Adelaide and Perth marched through the streets in December, protesting at the conservative Abbott Government’s move to outsource future building of warships and submarines overseas.
The rallies of Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) members also demanded the Defence Minister be sacked or resign for failing to ensure continuing work domestically on the current build of three Air Warfare Destroyers (AWD).
The Government also refused to bring forward plans to build eight new navy frigates or even guarantee they will be built in Australia, leaving BAE Systems and Forgacs with a gap in contracts known as “the valley of death”.
AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson slammed Defence Minister David Johnston's “bumbling inaction” on the AWD project.
“He must resign unless he takes immediate action on what his own expert report, the AMWU and the shipbuilding industry keep telling him, we need a rolling build of naval combat ships in Adelaide and other Australian shipyards and we need commitment now,” Mr Thompson said.
The biggest contract issue facing Australian shipbuilding is whether the nation’s future submarine fleet will be built in Australia, as promised by the Abbott Government before it was elected in 2013. The Government has now backtracked and is considering outsourcing the work. That would devastate Australia’s shipbuilding industry.
But AMWU union action has won powerful political support, even from Senators in the ruling Abbott Government, that there should be a transparent tender process on the project and whichever bidder wins; the submarines must be built in Australia.
In November, Mr Thompson attended IndustriALL’s World Conference on Shipbuilding and Shipbreaking in Japan, where unions at BAE Systems operations in Britain, the US and Australia agreed to set up a global network.
“We will be working in a collaborative way to share information and build global solidarity,” Mr Thompson said.