So what's this campaign really about?
The capacity and safety of our uniformed Defence Forces rely on a 'silent army' of civilian workers to support them.
These workers are important to the safety of our nation, they maintain sophisticated equipment, check safety and test munitions.
But the Government is failing to respect the vital roles these jobs play.
Deloitte – the consultancy firm – reported to the Department of Defence in November 2012. It wrote:
“Ensuring Defence has appropriate APS (i.e. civilian) engineering and technical skills is of critical importance for a number of reasons; most importantly because the APS engineering and technical workforce is central to the management of the integrity, worthiness and safety of capability over its lifetime. The workforce plays a critical role in delivering required capability through providing advice, assurance and risk management. The workforce also plays an essential role in ensuring that industry continues to deliver Defence capability through cost-effective and productive partnerships between industry, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and APS.”
“… a range of changing dynamics has been affecting Defence’s engineering and technical capability for some time. … skill issues are impacting the provision of capability.”
The following two were amongst Deloitte’s key findings:
“A key risk is the loss of Defence knowledge and experience within an ageing workforce (average age of 48).”
“Of the 54 workforce elements assessed within this review, 48 were considered ‘high risk’.”
Ernst and Young – another consultancy firm – reported to the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), part of the Department of Defence, on 23rd June, 2014. It wrote:
“The DMO as an enterprise does not have visibility of the skills gaps in their engineering and technical positions. Underqualified personnel occupying technical positions may pose a risk to Defence capability.”
“DMO does not have a recruitment strategy to target their future skills or demographic gaps. There is currently an 18% vacancy rate within the Engineer and Technical Job Family at DMO. This gap … will place further strain on critical positions and may pose a risk to Defence operations.”
“There is no evidence of robust workforce planning that will support the DMO skills or resourcing requirements in the future.”
“The average age of a DMO Engineering and Technical employee is 52 … As such, there is a risk that, in the next 3-5 years, if the ageing workforce becomes ill due to work overload or starts to take up other options such as retirement or other employment, there will be a shortage of knowledgeable and experienced engineers and technicians rising through the ranks.”
The AMWU addressed skills in its submission of October 2014 to the Defence white paper. That submission may be accessed here.
On 20th August 2015 the Senate instituted an inquiry into "the capability of Defence's physical science and engineering workforce". You can access the 'inquiry' webpage here. That webpage sets out the inquiry terms of reference. It also carries links to:
- The Submissions made to the inquiry, including those made by the AMWU and at least thirteen of the members; and
- Transcripts of the inquiry's public hearings.
The Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee reported on the capability of Defence’s PSE workforce on 1st April, 2016. Amongst other things, it wrote:
5.6 “… it has been difficult for the committee to reconcile Defence’s assurances that its PSE workforce ‘is capable, meets the Government’s requirements and is well placed to meet future challenges’ with the other evidence received during the inquiry. This evidence included:
- the findings of previous reviews highlighting on-going issues, particularly with regard to the capabilities of the Defence engineering workforce;
- the declining capability to the Defence PSE workforce due to staffing reductions, recruitment restrictions and lack of workforce planning;
- reports of difficulties recruiting some specialist technical positions;
- redundancies offered and taken up by specialist PSE personnel in areas of major future acquisitions;
- descriptions of low morale in areas of the Defence PSE workforce; and
- an increasing reliance on contractors to undertake PSE responsibilities.”
5.10 “ … the committee received evidence that some Defence PSE workforce capabilities had been significantly reduced through lack of recruitment, a lack of investment in skills development and a lack of succession planning for those leaving Defence. A key concern is that Defence, in responding to a series of repeated efficiency measures from government, has permitted its in-house PSE capabilities to decline to critical levels.”