Black Hawks go, so do jobs .
ABOUT 70 Townsville Black Hawk maintenance crew mem¬bers will be made redundant by the end of the year, as the iconic helicopter is phased out of service.
Employees received the bad news at a meeting at the BAE Services hangar at Townsville Airport on Wednesday.
Staff who contacted the Bulletin said the majority of workers were ex-military and many feared they would struggle to find a job in their ever-shrinking field.
“This is all I know, outside of the army,” one worker said.
“There just aren’t many jobs out there in my trade.”
Another employee, who also asked to remain anonymous, said while staff understood contracts came to an end, they believed they would struggle to get a job locally, if at all.
The Bulletin understands that BAE Services’ Chinook maintenance crews will be retained, but likely downsized.
“They have been slowly downsizing (the Black Hawk crews) for a while but now we know the Black Hawk maintenance crews will be no more,” one employee, who is former RAAF, said.
The Bulletin has been told that BAE Systems has not offered staff options to retrain or relocate at this stage. Workers said they would likely be left with little option but to leave Townsville.
They said jobs interstate were also limited and they felt they would have to “start from scratch”.
Steve Re, of the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association, said aviation engineers and aircraft technicians had substantial skills and retraining often made them valuable assets in other sectors.
But he warned the aviation sector was “quite dire” in Australia, with many job losses.
“It is a limited industry,” Mr Re said, warning it was highly likely those skilled BAE workers would have to leave Townsville. The Australian Army’s Black Hawk helicopter fleet has been in operation since the late 1980s and was deployed to East Timor. They have also been instrumental in humanitarian efforts, including the rescue of people during the 2011 floods.
They are being replaced by the Multi Role Helicopter 90 (MRH-90) with the city’s fleet of 16 expected to be
fully received by the end of the year.
A Defence spokesman said the BAE Systems support contract was expected to end in January next year.
In a statement, a BAE spokeswoman said the company had been advised its services would no longer be required from January 30.
“About 70 employees are at risk of redundancy between September 2014 and January 2015,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are currently exploring opportunities to obtain new work and retain as many of our employees as we possibly can.”
The company also confirmed Defence had made a “minor reduction” in its maintenance requirements for its Chinook helicopter fleet.