The sailors were among 320 men and women who enlisted between 2010 and 2012 on contracts that reportedly said they would receive training to get a certificate IV in engineering in four years.
Sailors who enlisted on the promise of trade qualifications are suing the Royal Australian Navy for failing to deliver, with 220 current and former naval personnel joining a class action claiming negligence and breach of contract.
The sailors were among 320 men and women who enlisted between 2010 and 2012 on contracts that reportedly said they would receive training to get a certificate IV in engineering in four years under the marine technician 2010 category career continuum program, or MT2010.
The lead plaintiff, Clayton Searle, told the ABC the training was never delivered. “At the four-year mark they were offering new courses to act as compensation for where they had gone wrong, but it was still three years before we’d receive a lesser qualification than what we were scheduled to have,” he said.
Jon Henderson, who joined at the same time, told the ABC it was “quite obvious” the recruits were never going to get the promised training and said they were instead frequently left with nothing to do.
“I was basically warehoused in a site called PSU, or personnel support unit, where numerous sailors basically sit around, read the paper, go online,” Henderson said.
“Kids are going in there at 17, 18 and leaving with nothing. There are guys who’ve been in there 10 years and are coming out and having to do excess training just to get a qualification to get a civilian job.”
Stewart Levitt, the lead lawyer on the case, said the sailors were “effectively conned into enlistment”. “They were effectively misled and strung along and left in a position where they were asked to do either other duties or no duties at all,” he said.
Levitt said some had been placed in a room and told they couldn’t leave until they signed a waiver of the training agreement. Three years in, the sailors were reportedly told they could get a certificate III in engineering, a lesser qualification, if they signed on for another term.
“Overwhelmingly they don’t want to remain in the navy because the navy has done the wrong thing by them,” Levitt said.
Levitt told Guardian Australia he had been contacted by recruits in other navy and defence force programs who said they had also not received promised training.
“They say that this is the tip of the iceberg and asked us to take on their cases, which they describe as very similar,” he said.
“It’s wasteful not only in terms of taxpayer dollars but in terms of human resources – there are 320 people who are in the prime of their lives in terms of employability who are frustrated and denied their ability to contribute as taxpayers who are actively participating.”
According to a 2014 report by the Australian National Audit Office, the navy had a “critical” shortfall of 370 qualified marine technicians, or 23.5% of their required taskforce, in June 2014.
That report said the MT2010 program had been intended to address “career dissatisfaction” among marine technicians, concern about their qualifications and “lack of meaningful shore-based jobs”. It said the chief of navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, had ordered the training of junior marine technicians be prioritised.
The class action is scheduled for the New South Wales supreme court on 20 May.
Source: The Guardian