Australian unions have signed a landmark agreement with Naval Group Australia to build 12 new submarines on-time and on-budget and to protect Australian workers.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the Australian Workers Union, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, and Professionals Australia signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Naval Group Australia in Sydney on Tuesday.
Brent Clark, Naval Group Australia’s interim chief executive said the submarine program was the largest defence capital investment program in Australia’s history and would be critical to national security and sovereignty for decades.
“Naval Group is committed to establishing an enduring, productive and globally competitive workplace relations framework that will form the basis for our future submarine operations in Australia,” he said.
“The construction of the Future Submarines in Australia will create a sustainable maritime industry, bolster the Australian economy for generations to come and create certainty for the many hundreds of Australian suppliers who will be involved in the [Future Submarine Program]”.
The MoU outlines how Naval Group will consult with unions, universities, TAFE and Registered Training Organisations to skill up to 2900 Australian workers who will be involved in the submarine building project. Partnership principles include a focus on safety, national security, consultation and collaboration, a high-skilled workforce, innovation and workplace flexibility.
The MoU establishes a Workplace Council made up of representatives from the signatory unions and DCNS Australia, trading as The Naval Group.
Naval Group Australia is a subsidiary of Naval Group, a French naval shipbuilding company.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the ACTU hopes the agreement signals the start of a constructive relationship between DCNS and the shipbuilding unions.
“This project has huge potential to create jobs and build capacity in the shipbuilding industry,” she said.
“This is about the future of manufacturing and high-skilled jobs.”
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson said the MoU was a milestone in the union’s campaign for an Australian shipbuilding industry “that delivers good jobs and meets Australia’s future needs”.
“Thousands of shipbuilding workers have campaigned to secure the future of this industry,” he said.
After announcing the federal government’s plan to commission 54 new ships in coming decades to improve Australian security, Defence Minister Marise Payne on Tuesday said that by 2035, “50 per cent of the world’s submarines will be operating in this region alone”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was focused on building the navy of the future which involved bringing the most advanced manufacturing and technological skills to Australia.
“Whether it is defending Australia from regional or global threats and threats from rogue states like North Korea, or threats of terrorism, from threats right here at home, your government, my government is committed to keeping Australians safe,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Turnbull said nine future frigates which the government wanted to start building in 2020, would be equipped with an ambitious combination of the US-made Aegis combat system meshed with locally made SAAB Australia technology.