Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Thales workers meet in Benalla to beg for Government action to save their jobs

Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan joins forces with the workers to write to the Abbott Government demanding assurances for Thales' future.

LIBBY PRICE August 27, 2014 3:30am

more than 100 Thales workers and their families met in Benalla to talk about the future of their jobs if the Federal Government doesn't sing munitions contracts.

Angry workers from the Thales munitions factory in Benalla met with Federal Independent MP Cathy McGowan last week to design a campaign strategy to lobby the Federal Government to secure the future of the Thales business and their jobs.

It was standing room only in the meeting with more than 100 workers and their families, union and council representatives.

As the Member for the local electorate of Indi, Ms McGowan pledged to write to Defence Minister David Johnston and other Federal Government MPs, demanding the government make a decision regarding defence contracts with Thales.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union organiser Dave Corben said the five unions representing the 700 Thales workers had been trying to get answers on the ongoing operations of the Benalla and Mulwala sites for about six months.

‘‘A contract was needed to be signed by the 27th of July to ensure operations on the sites beyond June 2015. This date has come and gone; the unions have written letters to the local ministers asking for assistance to help the workers feel confident they will be employed next year, and we are trying everything we can to try and give some assurances to these people.’’

Also present at the meeting was Benalla Rural City Mayor Barbara Alexander who reminded the meeting that the council had already written numerous letters to try to secure the future of the town’s largest employer.

‘‘Actions the council has taken include writing to the respective Australian Government ministers overseeing the Defence Materials Organisation, Defence and the Domestic Munitions Manufacturing Arrangements Project to demonstrate the importance of the Australian Munitions facility to the Benalla economy, specifically as the municipality’s major employer,’’ Cr Alexander said.

Australian Workers Union regional organiser Terry O’Connor implored the Federal Government to buy Thales products.

‘‘We’re told the quality of the munitions we make here in Australia are second to none,’’ he said.

‘‘If that’s the case, then our armed forces deserve the best. If we manufacture and produce the best, we are the ones that should be providing for it.’’

Ms McGowan said she’d give the letter to three Coalition politicians: Member for Farrer Sussan Ley (the Thales factory at Mulwala in southern NSW is in her electorate), Member for Sale Darren Chester and Senator David Johnston.

‘‘It puts a whole lot more pressure on them to know if there’s this whole community that’s going to react really badly if they get a bad decision. The force of the community is here. It could blow up, it’s volatile!’’ Ms McGowan said.

Thales worker Brian fears the delays will lead to employees being told there’s no work due to the government not signing off on defence contracts.

‘‘We keep talking contracts ... nobody’s been talking to management about orders. If they keep putting this off until September there is going to be a flow-on effect with not getting orders. If we’re ordering parts in from other countries there’s a lag time and that creates a hole, then what happens to us? We just need some orders.’’


For full story see this week's Ensign.

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