Behind schedule & way over budget, but taxpayers have funded bonuses for French submarine builder
Wednesday, 06 May 2020
SA Senator Rex Patrick is a former Royal Australian Navy submariner. He also has quite a bit of experience in the business world. And he's spot on when he says:
"Ultimately it is the Australian taxpayer that pays Naval Group's employees working on the Future Submarine project."
"Noting the auditor-general found that they have missed deliveries and critical milestones, I think it's (the bonuses and pay rises) offensive".
Offensive and unforgivable. And approved by Linda Reynolds Department of Defence.
The French-owned company building Australia's future submarine fleet has granted employees taxpayer-funded pay rises despite fears the project is already billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
As the nation's unemployment rate surges towards levels not seen since the last recession, the ABC can also reveal Naval Group Australia has given staff early financial bonuses to "support them during the unprecedented COVID-19 period".
In 2016 Naval Group, then known as DCNS, won a lucrative international competition to design and build 12 new submarines to replace Australia's ageing Collins Class fleet.
The massive defence project, which is expected to cost at least $90 billion, has faced regular criticism including from the auditor-general who concluded in January the design was running nine months behind schedule.
In a statement, Naval Group Australia confirmed its recent cash windfall for staff was approved by the Defence Department and awarded on an "individual performance basis" while taking into account "external market remuneration conditions".
"Naval Group Australia recently completed its annual remuneration review in line with our remuneration policy," a company spokesperson told the ABC.
"Bonuses paid were linked to the 2019 performance year and were brought forward by three weeks to support our workforce during the unprecedented COVID-19 period.
"Our first priority during this period has always been the safety and wellbeing of our people, clients, suppliers and their families. Nothing is more important to us today and always," the spokesperson added.
It is not known what proportion of Naval Group's future submarine workforce received pay rises and bonuses, and the company has declined to reveal what the increases were worth.
Defence has refused to reveal who in the department approved the remuneration changes and referred all questions on Naval Group's employment conditions and pay to the company.
"The Strategic Partnering Agreement outlines that Naval Group Australia employee salaries and bonuses reimbursed by the Commonwealth in aggregate are appropriate and in line with market conditions and industry benchmarks," a Defence spokesperson said.