At a Senate committee hearing, AMWU'S national assistant secretary Glenn Thompson told the inquiry into the future of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry that BAE Systems' bid for the $35 billion project shows the company has strong intentions of developing a sovereign shipbuilding capability and workforce in Australia.
"The bidders of these projects know just how important skilled workforce is, we've already seen one of the frigates bidders indicate up to 1,000 graduates and apprentices will be working on the projects built in Australia," Thompson said.
"This sets the bar for the other bidders that must be met if they want to show that they are serious about developing sovereign shipbuilding capability in Australia. The government must reward and support tenderers that show this level of commitment to developing the skills of the workers."
BAE Systems recently unveiled its workforce mobilisation strategy for the SEA 5000 project, with a recruitment strategy that will include an Early Careers Program to create a pipeline of apprentices and graduates throughout the build phase of the $35 billion project.
The UK contender will commit to apprentices in steelwork, mechanical, electrical and technical trades, who will be central to the company’s strategy to ensure the right breadth and depth of skilled workers are brought into the multi-decade program. The company is anticipating that, at its peak, the Early Careers Program will have a population of around 150 apprentices, which will continue throughout the 35-year program.
A graduate program for business and engineering students will also offer opportunities for international placements across the company’s global business.
BAE Systems Australia chief executive Glynn Phillips said the Early Careers Program will be the first step in workers securing a job for life, if the company is selected as the successful tenderer.
"If BAE Systems is down-selected for SEA 5000, by the end of the construction phase – circa 2038 – we estimate that 75 percent of our workforce, including senior executives, will have started as graduates or apprentices, making a job on SEA 5000 potentially a job for life," said Phillips.
"Our commitment for SEA 5000 is to build a diverse and skilled workforce in Australia. I am confident that our Early Careers Program will attract Australia’s brightest talent from schools and universities."
AMWU's Thompson said BAE's mobilisation strategy showed a solid commitment to utilising and maximising an Australian workforce, despite the tender documents not mandating the use of a particular workforce or company like ASC or Austal.
"Its pretty remarkable that we've got a foreign company bidding for this project talking about Australian workforce while the government's own documents make it clear that using these workers is [optional]," Thompson told the Senate committee.
"A sovereign capability to build and maintain ships in Australia is not optional, using workers on these projects from day one isn't either."
The $35 billion project will see nine vessels constructed in Adelaide.
BAE Systems, Fincantieri of Italy and Spain's Navantia are all tendering for the project.