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End the uncertainty - unions

Mum and dad workers just ‘trying to make a go of it’ are facing increasing job uncertainty as contract negotiations for the Mulwala and Benalla munitions factories remain indefinitely suspended, according to unions.

RACHEAL WILLETT August 19, 2014 4:13pm

Unions representing 700 workers at the Mulwala and Benalla munitions factories have called on the Federal Government to end the uncertainty surrounding the future of the plants for the peace of mind of their members.

With tender negotiations for the DMMA still indefinitely suspended and a date identified by unions as a ‘critical’ point for ordering having come and gone, Dave Corben from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said the employees needed answers.

“We’re calling on the Federal Government to end a protracted period of uncertainty concerning the future of these sites and the future of the munitions manufacturing industry in Australia,” Mr Corben said.

“At present, Thales operates both sites (as Australian Munitions) but their contract to do so expires in June 2015.

“In January this year, the Federal Government suspended a long-running tender process to determine the company that would operate these government – owned munitions manufacturing establishments from July 2015.

“Since this tender process was suspended the Federal Government has said very little about the future of these sites.”

The original timetable for negotiations for the Domestic Munitions Manufacturing Arrangements Project (DMMA) called for a decision to be made on a successful tender late this year.

Since the negotiations stalled, three shortlisted consortia – one led by the incumbent Thales Australia – have been left in a holding pattern.

Local speculation and concern about the future of the Mulwala and Benalla plants is increasing and unions including the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Electrical Trade Union, Australian Workers Union, Professionals Australia and the National Union of Workers, are pushing for answers.

“The workers need to know the truth about the direction of this contract before people start to panic,” Mr Corben said.

“There are lots of people worried about their future.

“The unions have written letters to the local members 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.”

Member for Indi Cathy McGowan is to speak at a meeting of workers in Benalla this week; it is believed an Australian Munitions representative will also attend the meeting to address worker’s concerns.

The unions have also approached Member for Farrer Sussan Ley for support and are seeking a meeting with Defence Minister David Johnston.

“Unions believe the government urgently needs to put in place a long-term contract with Thales to ensure the necessary plans and investments can be made for the continuing operation of the sites,” Mr Corben said.

“Making a decision is not only critical for many hundreds of jobs but also critical if Australia is to have the capability to defend itself in times of crisis.”

A Department of Defence spokesperson told the Yarrawonga Chronicle, “Thales Australia Limited and the Department of Defence have resolved the majority of the aspects that are not clearly defined in the current arrangements. 

“The remaining aspects are expected to be resolved before the end of 2014.

“Progression of the DMMA project is still pending consideration by Government. Plans for operation of the facilities beyond June 2015 have been developed.” 

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