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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 20

(Question No. 1421)


Senator Hamer asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 10 October 1986:

(1) What restrictive work practices are in force at Williamstown Dockyard which, in the opinion of the management, reduce productivity without any compensatory safety or industrial health benefits.

(2) What restrictive work practices in force at Williamstown Dockyard, while having some safety or industrial health benefits, are done in such a way that comparable benefits could be achieved with less loss of productivity.

(3) What new restrictive work practices, of the type noted above, have come into force in the last year.

(4) What restrictive work practices, of the type noted above, have been eliminated in the past year and what have been the benefits to productivity in each case.

(5) Has the management advised the Minister for Defence of the total annual cost of these restrictive work practices; if so, what is the total annual cost of these restrictive work practices.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (5) On 21 March 1986, the Minister for Defence announced the need for restructuring to take place at Garden Island Dockyard, Williamstown Dockyard and the Government Aircraft Factories.

Following extensive consultation with Unions and Associations covering employees at the dockyards and the aircraft factories, a total of some 800 personnel from the three establishments were voluntarily retrenched and approximately 350 additional employees left by natural attrition and redeployment elsewhere.

A key element in the restructuring was the need to change a number of work practices which were having an adverse effect on efficient production.

In order to maintain production following the reductions, a range of work practice changes were implemented immediately while discussions commenced with unions and associations aimed at introducing other changes which, in the longer term, would result in more efficient work processes.

Over recent years, the primary workload at Williamstown Dockyard has moved from refit/modernisation to construction. Such a shift has necessitated the introduction of new work practices and the changing of other established practices. Over the past four years, work practice changes have been reflected in the following agreements:

Industrial Management and Practice Agreement 1982,

38 Hour Week Agreement, and

Statement to the Government on Continuation of Commitment to Reform.

At Williamstown Dockyard, some 75 work practices that required elimination, modification or introduction were identified and addressed during and after restructuring. Some of these involved occupational safety and health considerations but the majority, however, did not.

Since March 1986, some 50 of the identified work practices have either been introduced or agreement reached with the relevant union/association for introduction. Substantial progress has been made towards obtaining agreement to most of the remainder. This is a reflection of the co-operative attitude of the unions and associations towards achievement of changes.

Williamstown Dockyard management is actively pursuing the implementation of all the identified work practices to ensure that their contractual obligations with regard to the Australian Frigate Program are met and to ensure that maximum productive benefits are achieved. To this end also, management have ensured that no restrictive work practices, of the nature described in the question, have been introduced since March 1986.

Due to the nature and variety of the work practices being addressed, costings as sought by the honourable senator in his question have not been undertaken.