Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

 

UPDATE

A Thales Australia spokesperson has said, “following discussion with staff, unions and the FCC over recent weeks, Thales has decided to evaluate additional options to cope with the disruption to production schedules resulting from interruptions to Hawkei engine supplies.”

“As a result, the planned production shutdown in April will be limited to the Easter – Anzac Day period, from April 19 – 26.”

 

Defence manufacturer Thales will shut down its floor operations from April 8 to April 26, with up to 120 workers forced to take annual leave or leave without pay.

The work stoppage is due to an issue with the supply of an engine from Austrian manufacturer Steyr Motors, as part of the Hawkei vehicle project.

“Some delays to the production schedule are unavoidable and outside our control,” a Thales spokesperson said.

Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters denounced the decision saying that it was unfair
to make workers pay for the Thales’ mismanagement.

“It is not their fault that the supply of engines has not arrived,” Ms Chesters said.

“The company should do more to find them alternate work.”

Thales said that Steyr Motors is undergoing a restructuring and that is the cause of the delay.

Ms Chesters said that all of the parts required for assembly are made elsewhere, but assembled in Bendigo.

“I hear there is an alternative that could have been used in the design stage, a Victorian-made engine. This is why we need to have stronger rules in place for our defence manufacturing contracts,” she said.

When including public holidays and one scheduled rostered day off, the required annual leave is 11 days.

If workers don’t have enough annual leave to cover the stoppage, they have the option of taking negative leave, unpaid leave or purchasing additional annual leave by deducting a portion of their future wage over 12 months.

“All of these circumstances are unfair. Negative leave means that you delay being able to take any future holidays. That puts a lot of pressure on families and household budgets,” Ms Chesters said.

Thales responded by saying, “there will be no requirement for staff to take leave without pay.”

This latest shutdown comes after 35 Bendigo Thales employees were among 240 across the country who were unpaid during a seven year span, with $5.4 million back paid last year.

Ms Chesters urged the company to step up and fix its workplace issues.

“Underpaying and standing workers down demonstrates a terrible track record that this company is developing,” she said.

Thales wouldn’t commit to whether or not work would commence immediately after the shutdown saying it is, “committed to ensuring we maintain long term, ongoing employment for our people.”