Signatories to the agreement include the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Australian Workers Union (AWU), Professionals Australia, and Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
BAE Systems and the signatories said the agreement will underpin a "competitive and positive" workplace relations environment that will support the successful delivery of the nine Future Frigates, should BAE Systems be selected as the successful bidder.
BAE Systems CEO Gabby Costigan said the commitments within the agreement signal a genuine co-operative approach between BAE Systems and the shipbuilding unions.
"BAE Systems Australia welcomes the signing of this Principles Agreement with the Australian shipbuilding unions," said Costigan. "This agreement is a further demonstration of the mutual respect and co-operation developed throughout a number of major programs including the building of Anzac-class frigates, the New Zealand frigates HMNZS Otago and Wellington, the on-time delivery of the Landing Helicopter Dock Ships and the construction of blocks for the Air Warfare Destroyer program."
BAE Systems is proposing its Global Combat Ship – Australia for the federal government’s SEA 5000 program. Based in South Australia the project will employ many thousands of highly skilled people from across the nation, including 1,000 graduates and apprentices during the 30+ year program to build nine Anti-Submarine Warships for the Royal Australian Navy.
AMWU assistant national secretary Glenn Thompson said the agreement will deliver jobs for the Australian workforce.
"This agreement is another milestone in our campaign for an Australian shipbuilding industry that delivers good jobs and meets Australia’s future needs," Thompson said.
"Thousands of shipbuilding workers have campaigned to secure the future of this industry. We look forward to working with BAE Systems to build a workforce that has the skills to deliver this critical project."
Professionals Australia said the Future Frigates project will be crucial in developing "smart jobs" of the future.
"Australia is in dire need of major projects which generate good, steady jobs for engineers and other workers in the shipbuilding industry," the union said.
"This is the most important and complex project in Australia, providing an enormous opportunity to fast track our move into advanced manufacturing and create the smart jobs of the future through. That opportunity will only be seized if we do the vast majority of work locally in Australia to get the flow-on benefit to Australian workers through direct jobs in the supply chain."
BAE Systems is up against Navantia and Fincantieri for the SEA 5000 project. Fincantieri has also signed an agreement with the AMWU, the AWU, the ETU Professionals Australia and the ACTU.
A decision of the $35-billion project is expected by June this year.