Defence manufacturer Thales to offer redundancies to Bendigo Bushmaster factory staff

Defence manufacturer Thales to offer redundancies to Bendigo Bushmaster factory staff
  • PublishedSeptember 20, 2023

The ABC understands jobs could be made redundant at the factory due to a lack of orders for defence mobility vehicles, such as the Bushmaster and Hawkei.

Member for Bendigo Ms Chesters said Thales had promised the government during negotiations earlier this year to extend the contract to build Bushmasters that it would secure jobs at the site.

Ms Chesters said part of the reason the $160 million contract was extended was to secure those jobs.

“These are highly skilled jobs. We want Thales and Bendigo to have that capacity,” Ms Chesters said.

“Thales need to be better – they need to work with the site to make sure they’ve got the skill capability going into the future.

“If they want to secure more work for Bendigo, which we want them to do, they need to work with their team and really limit the number of roles that have been reduced.

“I’m really concerned they might be making people redundant today that they need in the future.”

Mixed messages to MP

Ms Chesters said Thales had previously indicated some jobs might go, related to people who were finishing on the Hawkei project, but she had not expected 49 redundancies.

Thales offered redundancies for up to 29 staff in August last year.

In a statement, Thales said its Bendigo facility had manufactured products to world’s best practice for more than 70 years.

“Thales Australia highly values its workforce and the contribution that they make to our customers, national security, and the overall success of the company,” the statement read. 

Ms Chesters said it was not clear at this stage whether the 49 redundancies were all related to the Hawkei project.

“What they were saying to me back in May is very different to what they’re saying today,” she said.

The ABC understands workers were told the redundancies were supposed to take place next year, but workers believe it could be sooner and that they will mainly affect production staff.

a photo of a sign saying 'thales'
It is not clear whether the proposed redundancies are all related to the Hawkei project.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Concern about loss of skilled workers

Bendigo Trades Hall secretary Luke Martin said it was extremely disappointing to hear about more possible redundancies at Thales’s Bendigo factory.

“We’ve been fighting for that site for years,” he said.

“Over the years a lot of really highly skilled production workers have come through that factory, and it’s disappointing to hear that those skilled manufacturing jobs could be lost.”

Ms Chesters believes up to 30 workers at the Bendigo factory are ready to retire and are willing to put their hands up for a voluntary redundancy.

“I have no problem with people wanting to take a redundancy and retire, or potentially career change — that’s their option, that’s their right,” she said.

“But my understanding is, there isn’t 49 people wanting to do that.

“My other concern is, will it put the site’s capability at risk?”

Ms Chesters said she had already met with Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy and flagged her concerns.

“I’ll keep advocating for work to come to the site but call upon Thales – they’ve got a duty to those workers and to Bendigo to keep as many of them employed as possible,” she said.

“They really have to manage their contracts better going forward.”


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