AMWU members at train manufacturer Alstom are getting into the seasonal spirit during a quiet period between contracts by devoting their skills to repairing Ballarat community assets including schools and hostels.
They have started work on two Uniting Care accommodation centres and the Ballarat Secondary College, with repairs to school equipment and some new items being fabricated at Alstom and Ballarat Group Training (BGT).
Six of the senior tradesmen and AMWU members have also volunteered to mentor young people in various trades to help them complete their apprenticeships with local firms and non-profit provider BGT.
That's the way (left) : AMWU members David Armstrong (left) and Peter Walls (right) with metals apprenticeship hopeful Ryan Freeman, 17, at the Ballarat Training Group's workshops.
Our union worked with Alstom management to reach out to community groups while the 45 workers on the shop floor have a gap period between Victorian Government contracts to outfit new X’Trapolis suburban trains.
Activity on-site will not ramp up to full production again until mid-2016 when assembly of five new sets of X’Trapolis trains begins.
The bigger hope for Ballarat is that a syndicate including Alstom succeeds in winning the $1.3 billion contract for 37 high-capacity metro trains, promising full train manufacturing and dozens of new long-term jobs.
AMWU delegate David Armstrong said in the meantime, members had been cleared by Alstom to work on a long list of maintenance tasks at two school campuses and two Uniting Care properties.
There’s painting to do at drug withdrawal centre, Tabor House, and doors and stairs to mend at the sprawling, historic Reid’s Guest House.
It’s given our AMWU members a close-up look at how disadvantaged members of the community are doing it tough.
“It’s not building trains, but it’s good to be helping out,” said AMWU member Ross Beckerleg while fixing door locks at Reid’s.
Helping hands (left): fitter Steve Taylor and rail car builder RossBeckerleg turn their hands to maintenance at Uniting Care's Reid Guest House.
Alstom have also agreed that workers can use its rail workshops to overhaul Ballarat Secondary College’s mechanised grass slasher, plus fabricate a trailer bicycle rack and portable stages for school drama classes.
Metals apprentices at Ballarat Group Training’s workshop will get some real-world practice by repairing school property, starting with the grills on the gym windows.
David Armstrong and Alstom’s site supervisor Peter Walls are among AMWU members to have done a mentoring course with BGT and met local employers so they can each help a local apprentice.
Mr Armstrong is mentoring a second year carpentry apprentice, Mick Birch.
“I thought it would be good for the union to get together with BGT because we want to help out, it’s hard to get an apprenticeship and only 40 per cent are able to finish their apprenticeships. We want to help lift that rate,” Mr Armstrong said.
“We’re available to be paired up with the young people, to hopefully use our experience. If we can give them some advice to get through their apprenticeship it will be very satisfying.”
Help crew: AMWU members Mick Torpy and Ashley Mabbit (below left) take to the cherry picker to prepare the secondary college gym wall for painting. Trusted mentor: (below right) David Armstrong with the apprentice he is assisting, Mick Birch.