WASHINGTON, DC–As the labor representative for workers at the major shipyards building Naval vessels in the U.S., I am deeply disturbed by the allegations that Austal, USA violated the False Claims Act.
For years, the Metal Trades Department has suspected that the company is abusing the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) center by garnering state and local tax incentives while failing to properly train prospective employees. The legal allegations brought forth in the June 2014 lawsuit filed by the Gardner Firm PC, only further justifies our concerns.
As reported by Law360’s Jacob Fischler in Ex-Workers Say Navy Shipbuilder Faked Employee Records, the “employees were sometimes misrepresented as supervisors to skirt government provisions about how many supervisors were required per shift, as well as to boost their reimbursement potential.” We believe that this type of misrepresentation is rampant at Austal, USA.
Employees at Austal have had their voices ignored repeatedly. Our representatives have expressed concern to the Navy that these practices might be happening. We were not kept abreast of what, if any, action was taken by Navy personnel. This company has violated U.S. laws, fired employees who complain. As outlined in the lawsuit, three of the five relators—those named in the suit—were fired after reporting the alleged fraud to supervisors. The environment of intimidation and fear has caused most to keep their head down for fear of losing their jobs.
These new accusations, as well as the repeated OSHA citations issued to Austal, USA shows the callous disregard this company has for both U.S. regulations and its workforce. The U.S. Navy and the hard-working men and women in our shipyards deserve better.
Columbus MTC volunteer
Nashville, TN – Under the banner of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Work Boots on the Ground program, members of the Columbus Metal Trades Council (CMTC) volunteered their time and skills on Saturday, Feb. 21, to inspect six boat docks and 66 boat slips at Florence Marina State Park for electrical hazards and make needed repairs, saving the park $1,500 to $2,000.
James Carr, Curtis Culpepper and Mike Culpepper, members of Electrical Workers Local 613, along with project leader Dave Hall, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 85, and Trish Carr looked for exposed wiring, broken receptacle covers, bad ground fault circuit interrupters and other hazards that could put boat slip tenants and park visitors at risk.
Launched in 2010, Work Boots on the Ground brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to projects that conserve wildlife habitat, educate future generations of sportsmen and women, improve public access to the outdoors or restore America’s parks. Sitting at the northern end of 45,000-acre Lake Walter F. George in Omaha, GA, Florence Marina State Park is popular among a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, especially anglers and boaters. As with most state parks, it is managed with a tight budget.
“If there were any exposed wires or other electrical issues, and a renter or guest slipped into the water, it could cause serious bodily injury. The inspection helps prevent hazards and minimize risks,” said Tracy Yearta, park manager of Florence Marina State Park and Providence Canyon State Park. “Lots of these projects have to be funded by the department and, with funding the way it is, it’s very critical to bring in outside resources. Their [CMTC volunteers] skills and leadership ability is exactly what we need.”
Yearta first saw their skills and leadership in action in 2014 when CMTC volunteers cleared a 7-mile hiking trail and restored scenic views at nearby Providence Canyon State Park—Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.
According to Hall, “Everybody was happy doing it…there was a sense of pride in knowing that we helped out the local community. The very next month at our meeting, everybody was exciting, smiling, happy. Some of the same volunteers wanted to do another project.”
This summer and fall, the volunteers will renovate Florence Marina State Park’s waste water treatment facility and install additional campsites at the park.
About the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit http://www.unionsportsmen.org/or www.facebook.com/unionsportsmen.