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.
I am honored to be at the White House to witness the signing of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions have been advocating for and supporting this action for many years.
Our organizations have witnessed first hand the abuses of unscrupulous federal contractors wage theft of their workers and the unlawful retaliation when workers try to exercise their rights. The terms of the Contractor’s federal contracts require them to obey and abide by the laws. Although the vast majority of contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are not treated fairly. Many are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners. Today, President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.
This Executive Order means that there will be consequences that will actually deter this unlawful action.
We thank President Obama for issuing this Executive Order.
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The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO strongly condemns the passage of H.R. 1120, in the House of Representatives.
This legislation is another example of the all-out assault by many Republicans on the National Labor Relations Board and on basic workers protections. While 10 Republicans stood up for workers’ rights and voted “no” on H.R. 1120, the vast majority of Republican members voted for the bill’s passage.
The bill would “prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from taking any action that requires a quorum of the members of the Board until such time as Board constituting a quorum shall have been confirmed by the Senate.” Meanwhile the Republicans have frustrated the appointment of qualified leadership to the NLRB through parliamentary tactics.
“The passage of this bill is just another example of the cynical Republican policies designed to frustrate the rights of workers on the job and the utter disdain for the vital work that the NLRB performs,” said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department.
Washington, D.C.—A bipartisan coalition of labor unions and maritime business owners affiliated with the Shipbuilding Council of America have jointly sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to pass a defense appropriations bill and avoid sequestration cuts before the Navy begins widespread lay-offs and cancellation of ship maintenance on February 15, 2013.
In the letter the coalition stresses that “If no action is taken, the magnitude and indiscriminate nature of sequestration coupled with the 2013 Continuing Resolution will trigger significant reductions in operating budgets across the United States Joint Forces, degrading our military readiness and resulting in economic harm to workers and communities across the country.”
Explaining that the situation has “profound consequences for America’s workers and communities,” the letter urges Congress to pass a budget before February 15, 2013 and that failure to do so would result in:
- Up to 46,000 Department of Defense civilian employees will be immediately laid off.
- Another 800,000 workers will face furlough days resulting in a 20 percent pay cut.
- More than 100,000 people could lose jobs in the shipbuilding and repair industry and our supply chain.
The letter continues outlining the already dire consequences of inaction on the federal budget citing the February 6, 2013, Navy cancellation of the deployment of the U.S.S. Harry Truman aircraft carrier strike group, which had been scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf later that week. “This leaves the United States with only one aircraft carrier in place to provide critical air power for our troops in that volatile region. Looking ahead, the Navy plans to cancel all 3rd and 4th quarter repair and availabilities to address budget shortfalls due to another continuing resolution.”
The letter is signed by Ron Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department and the presidents of its affiliated unions including Patrick D. Finley, Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons; Thomas Buffenbarger, IAMAW; Joseph Nigro, SMWIA; James A. Williams, IUPAT; James T. Callahan, Operating Engineers; Newton Jones, IBB; Gregory Junemann, IFPTE; William Hite, UA; William R. Dougan, NFFE; and David J. Holway, NAGE. It is also signed by Frank Foti, SCA Chairman, CEO Vigor Industrial and the more than 100 maritime business owners who make up the Shipbuilding Council of America.
Addressing job losses in the letter the coalition explains “the jobs to be lost are in all 50 states, not just Navy homeports and coastal areas. Highly skilled workers will be laid off and might leave the industry altogether. Communities where these workers live will feel the effects in reduced support for local businesses and reduced revenue for schools and local municipal services at a time when our economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery. Many small businesses, and minority-, veteran-, women-owned and disadvantaged companies, face going out of business. New workers, including veterans, will not be hired.” And that “Once lost, many of these jobs will not return to our economy.”
For Immediate Release: October 24, 2012
Contact: Ron Ault, 202-341-2036
Yesterday Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and others made statements attempting to capitalize on President Obama’s comments on Shipbuilding during the final Presidential Debate. As the organization that represents the workforce at the Naval Shipyards the Metal Trades Department President Ron Ault responds.
Ron Ault, President of The Metal Trades Department:
“The Metal Trades represents the workforce at the Naval Shipyards and the Norfolk Navy Public Works Centers at the Norfolk Naval Operations Base as well as at private shipyards that build naval warships- President Obama correctly pointed out it is about the capability of our Naval warships- not just the quantity of ships. We are building the most versatile, most capable technologically advanced warships in the world, fully capable of engaging multiple targets simultaneously.
“I was personally present at the christening ceremonies of the USS America, LHA 6, under construction at Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, this past Saturday, the fourth ship named America is a new class of big deck amphibious aircraft carrier designed to be active in the US fleet until at least 2053. The crew that will man the America in 2053 will face yet unknown mission requirements. Our ships are designed to be adaptable and capable to successfully fight and win battles with yet unknown foes in yet unknown conflicts. There is no other Navy in the world that has the Navy America has, nor the technologies and fighting/survivability of our ships. America is far and away superior to any of the Navies of any nation on earth.
“I am proud to represent the world best shipbuilders and the very best ship repair/maintenance workforce. I took no insult from our President’s remarks nor did I see any reason for anyone in the shipbuilding or ship repair industry to. He simply spoke the truth. The Navy ships we build today are built for multi-missions to be able to respond to yet unknown missions of the future and are without question the most capable, most versatile warships ever built by any nation.”
The Administration appreciates the House Armed Services Committee’s continued support of our national defense and supports a number of the provisions in H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. In particular, the Administration appreciates the support of the Committee for authorities that assist the ability of the warfighter to operate in unconventional and irregular warfare, counter unconventional threats, or support contingency or stability operations. The Administration is disappointed, however, with the many provisions in this bill that impede the ability of the Secretary of Defense to carry out the 2012 defense strategic guidance.
While there are a number of areas of agreement with the Committee, the Administration has serious concerns with provisions that: (1) depart from the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget request – in particular, increases to the topline request for the base budget; (2) constrain the ability of the Armed Forces to carry out their missions consistent with the new defense strategy; or (3) impede the ability of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy to make and implement management decisions that eliminate unnecessary overhead or programs to ensure scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities for the national security. The overall funding level supported by H.R. 4310 would violate the Budget Control Act of 2011, the bipartisan agreement reached between the Congress and the President to put the Nation on a sustainable fiscal course. If the cumulative effects of the bill impede the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources, the President’s senior advisors would recommend to the President that he veto the bill.
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