Union calls for submarine builder CEO to get the sack

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union members are calling for the CEO of submarine builder ASC to be sacked amid an ongoing pay dispute.

May 23, 2024, updated May 23, 2024
A Collins class submarine at Osborne in Adelaide. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

A Collins class submarine at Osborne in Adelaide. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Around 300 Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) members in South Australia unanimously issued a vote of no confidence in ASC CEO Stuart Whiley’s leadership at a meeting yesterday.

ASC workers have been on strike for about three weeks as part of a dispute over pay. The workers – based at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide – rejected a pay offer from ASC earlier this month which they said was 11 per cent short of parity with their counterparts in Western Australia.

West Australian ASC workers are paid 17 per cent on average more than their South Australian peers, the AMWU said, and union members have called on the submarine builder to address the wage discrepancy.

AMWU SA Assistant State Secretary Stuart Gordon said ASC CEO Whiley also recently secured a raise of 31 per cent – equating to about $250,000 more per year.

Gordon said workers were “fed up”.

“His massive pay increase has come at the sacrifice of the workforce because for years ASC has degraded workers’ wages,” he said. “He should be sacked effective immediately.

“Why is Stuart Whiley paid an eye-watering salary that is north of $1 million from public funds to oversee submarine workers who are not paid their worth despite performing critical work in maintaining Australia’s naval defence system?”

Gordon said Whiley was the highest-paid CEO of a federal public entity in Australia with a salary of $1,084,725.

Submarine builders stopping work over the pay dispute has disrupted deep maintenance work on a Collins class submarine at Osborne, the AMWU said.

South Australian workers “are the only ones in the country able to carry out the Collins’ deep maintenance”, the union said.

“These same workers will serve a critical role once nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS are built.

“These workers are needed for the AUKUS arrangement with BAE Systems and ASC to be successful. Unequal pay for work that is vital for our national security is unacceptable.”

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ASC said it presented an offer to the Union and its members that would provide an average increase of 12 per cent at the commencement of the agreement.

The company added it had not threatened workers with dismissal, and said it was “disappointed” by the Union’s comments regarding the CEO.

“I have complete trust in my Executive Team’s ability to undertake these negotiations with the AMWU,” CEO Whiley said.

“This is a normal and acceptable position for a large company such as ours. While I do not attend these negotiations, I am fully briefed on the outcomes and will continue to work collaboratively with the Executive Team towards achieving a mutually beneficial outcome for ASC, the AMWU and its members.”

It comes as Premier Peter Malinauskas is in the United States touring shipyards building nuclear-powered submarines.

This morning Malinauskas said he would discuss how to “accelerate the sharing of knowledge” for the AUKUS shipbuilding program with his federal colleagues.

“The expertise of building a submarine from scratch was lost some time ago, so I think we’re going to need to accelerate getting South Australians and other Australians here in these shipbuilding yards at a greater pace than has been anticipated,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Asked whether his counterparts interstate needed to take the opportunity of the nuclear submarine program “more seriously”, Malinauskas  said: “We’ve got to quickly get our heads around the fact that this is truly a national endeavour.”

“They have to accept their responsibility about developing the workforce that’s going to be required, not just in the construction of submarines but also the engineering and design.

“Part of the challenge is that in the past when we think about defence procurement, it’s always a case of states fighting one another to get the work. I think we’ve not got so much work it’s a case of let’s make sure we all get it done in the national interest rather than this parochial nonsense.

“We’ve got so much work coming our way, we just need all hands on deck which I think is a change in approach between governments and this is something I’m certainly going to be advocating on my return.”

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