May 7, 2017

May 2017 Donors Report - The Union and Australian Submarine Projects

HMAS Collins launch in August 1993. In terms of industrial relations the construction was a success.

Hi Donors

I've just emailed Submarine Matters May 2017 Report The Union and Australian Submarine Projects out to you, as a WORD attachment. Please check your spam bin if you don't see it in your IN box.

Leadin to report:

"Submarine construction is a vast human enterprise with many aspects. One aspect is labour, the contribution of workers, who build the submarines. Australia has shipbuilding unions, including the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), that played a key role in the Collins’ submarine construction project. From the early 1980s Australian shipbuilding unions exhibited a high level of cooperation with the Australian government on the project. Things...[an important person referred to in the article should have been correctly spelt Hans J Ohff, not the typo I perpetuated of Hans J "Ohfe".]"


Peter Coates
Submarine Matters International 


Hans J Ohff said...

This piece draws largely on Peter Yule's and Derek Woolner's Submarine book. It comes up with the correct conclusion, uncertain future for the Australian naval shipbuilding industry at Osborne. The decision for the ab initio Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A design – parented by an untried and unproven 5300 tons nuclear powered attack submarine - may in the future be deeply regretted by the RAN submarine navy. The construction of 12 submarines and 9 frigates on the 2.5 km2 Osborne site with a sustained workforce of >5000 men and women promises to be a recipe for an industrial calamity. The history of Australian labour relations would attest to the looming problem.

EGLO Engineering’s Osborne construction yard was underutilised. The company had finished work on the Rankin A flare tower platform for Woodside’s North West Shelf program, as well as off-shore structures for Esso-BHP in Bass Strait. Hence EGLO management came up with the idea of building submarines for the RAN in Australia. The company also had a yard in Newcastle where it built oil and gas production modules for the Bass Strait platforms.

And ships for the RAN (the Bay-class Minehunter Inshore) and a vehicle-passenger-ferry for the Kangaroo-Island service at its Osborne yard. With the Newcastle yard busy EGLO chose Osborne as its future submarine construction yard.

Thus, the so-called green-field - actually brown-field - site was an active, busy, construction yard before the Collins program started. When EGLO/HDW lost the submarine tender it relinquished the yard to the SA government for the future submarine program to concentrate on the acquisition of WDY and the ANZAC frigate program.

John Halfpenny was indeed the powerful secretary of the Australia Metal Trades Union (AMWU) and the Victorian Trades Hall Council. ‎He was paid a king's ransom by Italian family-controlled Transfield P/L for initiating the purchase of EGLO Engineering, the successful bidder (jointly with International Combustion LTD Australia (ICAL) and Australian Shipbuilding Industries of WA [ASI]) for the Williamstown Dockyard.

Halfpenny advised Transfield, represented by Tony Shepherd (later President Business Council of Australia), that Transfield had to buy the stock-exchange-listed companies EGLO and ICAL if they wanted to be involved in the future Australian naval shipbuilding industry. John Halfpenny became aware that the EGLO/ICAL/ASI consortium would be the successful bidder for the government-owned Williamstown Dockyard (WDY), and that WDY would be the construction site for the future ANZAC frigates.

Before EGLO was taken over by Transfield it became the owner/ manager of WDY which it renamed AMECON. The company requested the Department of Defence to retrench the entire WDY workforce. EGLO with the co-operation of Halfpenny installed some 300 of its tried and proven blue-colour workers at AMECON. How EGLO convinced Halfpenny and the other trade-union secretaries to agree to a 3-union yard, excluded the Painters and Dockers, and retained the Federated Storemen and Packer’s Union of Australia (Victorian Branch) for offsite work only ‎is a story not to be told on this Blog.
HJO (past MD and CEO of EGLO, AMECON and ASC).

Peter Coates said...

Hi Hans J Ohff

Thankyou for your very comprehensive background details

As the Report and you indicate, a booming demand for labour [maybe 5,000 designers and workers needed at Osborne by 2022] may cause a new set of problems, not experienced on the Collins.

I wonder if a Federal Labor Government by 2022 may have a better chance at bringing the unions and other groups together?

I'll write further on some political (eg. Kim Beazley's contribution) and industrial issues of the Collins in coming weeks.


Peter Coates

Peter Coates said...

Hi Everyone

I'm now back from spending all those days away from Submarine Matters while I was helping my parents move house in Canberra.

I'll now resume my regular rate of at least 3 articles a week.



Anonymous said...

The mad dictator in NK successfully launched something in the class of the Chinese DF-26.

2 weeks earlier, it appears China did an ejection test for their future 2.2m diameter SLBM in the Bohai sea.