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Australian Navy "Shuts Down" For Christmas


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Navy closes for Christmas, families first in new year

NAVY chiefs battling a staffing crisis have taken the unprecedented step of ordering a two-month shutdown over Christmas, and have told personnel with child-care problems that they can work from home.




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On reading the opening post I wondered how could someone standing watch do their duty from home and why should it be only personnel with children.  The complete article answered those questions and while this is a significant shift in the approach to personnel problems, it does not seem to be as drastic as the topic title suggests.  Though not as familiar with how the fleet did things, my recollection of things CF is that training and exercises were often curtailed to include periods around the holidays and during the summer to accomodate block leave.  Since Australia has their "summer" opposite to ours, when would most take annual leave down under? 

Navy closes for Christmas, families first in new year
Cynthia Banham Diplomatic Editor The Sydney Morning Herald
November 18, 2008

NAVY chiefs battling a staffing crisis have taken the unprecedented step of ordering a two-month shutdown over Christmas, and have told personnel with child-care problems that they can work from home.

The navy has also ordered all ships not deployed on operations home for Christmas to try to combat a 2020 shortfall in trained personnel.

In addition, the number of sailors forced to stay on board ships docked in their home port on "duty watch" as sentries will be reduced from previous levels of 15 to 20 people to a skeleton staff.

Instead sensors and alarms will be used to guard the ships, with the ultimate aim being to do away with the need for any people at all.

Navy chiefs say the drastic measures are part of a plan to combat recruitment problems by creating a more family-friendly environment.

All local commanders have also been ordered to allow personnel affected by the ABC Learning child-care crisis more flexible working arrangements - and to work from home if necessary - until they have found alternative care.

Defence, like most of the public service, relies on ABC Learning for child-care services for its workers. Hundreds of children of navy personnel have been affected by the collapse of the child-care giant.

Navy chiefs, in a communication to all local commanders, directed that "following the announcement that ABC child care has gone into receivership", they must be "understanding of this stressful situation as the new working year approaches".

"Local commanders are to make every effort to negotiate flexible working arrangements that allow families to manage their commitments at home and at work until the situation is resolved," the directive says.

The stand-down period will run from December 3 to February 3, and will be a permanent arrangement every year.

This Christmas 500 navy personnel will remain deployed overseas and in waters north of Australia. If an emergency occurs, other personnel will be ordered back to work.

But thousands of sailors who might previously have been deployed on ships over December and January on exercises or training activities will not be this year, and will be able to take longer than usual holidays.

The extraordinary measures are a part of an initiative called "New Generation Navy" aimed at attracting and retaining more staff by changing the culture of the navy and improving the work-life balance of personnel.

The navy loses 11 per cent of its workforce every year and last financial year only achieved 73 per cent of its full-time recruitment targets.

The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, told the Herald "this program is about, where I can, providing an opportunity for our people to have a good break.

"This is about generating some space and taking advantage of an opportunity for [personnel] to be able to have a bit of time to spend with their families at home, a bit of time to spend with their mates."

He added: "It's about getting a culture in place that's about working smarter not harder, and I think we owe that to our people.

"By doing that I believe we can significantly reduce some of the separation rates we're seeing at the moment."

Leading Seaman Christine van Lieshout is a mother of three whose husband is also in the navy.

She believes the new Christmas arrangements will be "fantastic".

A reservist at navy headquarters at Russell in Canberra, Leading Seaman van Lieshout recalls spending Christmas in 2003 alone with her children because her husband, a chief petty officer, was on deployment to Christmas Island.

"That was pretty horrible," she said. "We were basically watching everyone else with their families … we received a phone call late in the afternoon from him and that was Christmas."

This year Leading Seaman van Lieshout and her husband, Rodney, will both go on leave on December 19, and will spend the holidays with their children Daniel, 16, Ashley, 11, and Stephanie, 13.

Her husband has just returned from a six-month deployment in the Gulf, during which time he missed his children's birthdays, Father's Day and a confirmation.

"The children have not had an opportunity to see their dad very much, so having the opportunity to have Rodney home a lot longer is fantastic because it gives them bonding time and takes a bit of pressure off me."

She said the initiatives were "fantastic for a lot of people".


Bruce Monkhouse

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Actually not a bad idea as long as nothing too serious rears it's ugly head.
Australia temporarily shuts down navy
Nov 18, 2008 07:42 AM 
The Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's navy gets a big Christmas gift this year: two months paid vacation for most sailors that will ease the effects of a recruiting slump but make the service Down Under look something like a part-time operation.

The navy hopes that by making life on the sea more family-friendly, it will attract the extra 2,000 sailors it needs achieve its target strength of 15,000.
Critics say the so-called shut down, which inspired a front-page newspaper headline Tuesday: "Navy Closes For Christmas," will worry Australia's major defence ally, the United States.

"Mothballing your ships for two months sends totally the wrong message to our region and to our allies," opposition defence spokesman David Johnston told The Associated Press. "I've never heard of anything like this. I'm flabbergasted.''
All 55 navy ships and submarines that are not on operational deployments have been ordered home for Christmas, and the number of sailors who stay aboard docked ships as sentries will be reduced to skeleton crews.

It is not clear how many how many sailors will take extra time off.
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio that the two months break for sailors, which begins Dec. 3, is "just a way of saying thank you and encouraging them to stay in the service.''

Fitzgibbon said a shortage of troops was the biggest challenge facing the Australian Defence Force and making their jobs more family friendly was part of the solution.
"The family-work balance is a very, very important part of the equation," Fitzgibbon said.
Navy Deputy Chief Rear Adm. Davyd Thomas said that the break will not adversely impact national security.

An Australian navy frigate would remain in the Middle East guarding oil wells over Christmas and seven patrol boats would guard Australia's northern waters from illegal fishers and smugglers, he said.
Two ships would also be on standby, one on the east and the other on the west coast, to respond to any emergency at sea, he said.
Thomas said the navy always had a shutdown period over the southern summer, although this one was longer.

"We're trying to become an employer of choice. We want people to want to be in the navy and want to serve here," Thomas told reporters.
Thomas said he expected most naval personnel would take the time off.
Neil James, executive director of the independent security think-tank Australian Defence Association, agreed the shutdown was not radically different from previous years, although it was a few weeks longer and would involve more ships remaining in dock.

He said the length of vacation would vary depending on the individual and some could expect to be recalled at short notice.
He said military chiefs had been considering longer Christmas vacations for years because the navy has the worst retention rate of Australia's three military services.
"The bottom line driving this is the retention problem," James said.
"If you look at the exit surveys of people serving in the defence force, the biggest single cause of dissatisfaction is family-work life balance," he said.


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I just responded to this when it was brought up in another thread, so here goes the old cut 'n' paste:

::) I hate the media, I really do.


The RAN is not "shutting down".

There will still be duty watches on every ship and every base, and HQ-JOC, NORCOM & AUSFLT watchkeepers will still be going round the clock to support the boys at sea.

The guys deployed to Iraq wont be putting there heals up, and we will still have a Major Fleet Unit doing Op Resolute over the period. The op tempo for our Patrol Boats on the Australian Station wont slow down either. Added to tht will be one vessel on operational standby at each of Fleet Base East, Fleet Base West, Cairns Naval Base and Darwin Naval Base.

What isnt being done is cocktail party trips "up top" (SE Asia), work ups, trials, daily routine work, any shore based training courses. Operational capability doesn't drop at all, most of my mates were on leave last christmas when I was doing Resolute.

The only difference this year and others is that its been extended from a month to 6 weeks (not 2 months as joe journalist is reporting).

Does Canada's Navy not take such a relaxation at christmas? And hell for that matter, does Canada's army send any of you out to the field in an exercise area of BC for christmas? I thought not.

What you guys also have to consider is that the christmas/NY holiday period is the summer holiday period in Australia. And also, to take non-public holidays off, you still either have to have accrued leave to take, or be eligable for trainee leave, otherwise its turn to every morning for duty watch.

Hope that clarifies it, I would have expected you'd take what the media report with a grain of salt...


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Cobbler is right. My Army regiment dies in the arse from early Dec to late Jan, and its like this pretty much every year ADF wide. This is the normal standown period. As much as ABC has affected us here in Brisbane, the federal govt has aided ABC with 22 million $$ to keep ABC alive nationally until 31 Dec. ABC is the monopoly pretty much here in QLD for child care, as its an original Brissy based company.

Its a storm in a tea cup, gone wild with that typical media frenzy, overall 3.2/10 rated on the panic scale IMHO.




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Harley Sailor said:
I still think it would be great to have six weeks of vacation in the summer.

When you consider they're combining Christmas and summer leave, some of us probably could.


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i always remember christmas time being dead we`d enter a reduced activy period for a period of about 1.5 months and have limited people on duty. our sub was locked up connected to the wharf via a LAN and could be accessed from outside rather than stay on board as duty watch. as for shore postings basically had 2 people for a watch in a commcen and did nothing but watch movies and sleep


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I received an email linked to these news items today. The RAN's  idea is sure making the rounds.