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Big bucks lure away our navy Print
The Daily Telegraph - March 12, 2007 Monday - IAN MCPHEDRAN

AUSTRALIAN navy technicians are being approached in bars in the Middle East and offered $1000 a day, tax-free, to work for oil-rich countries.

As the navy struggles to hire and retain technical staff, officers are also being lured to the private sector in Australia by offers of double their salary, plus perks.
But it is the booming ''petro-dollar'' economies in places such as the United Arab Emirates that are sounding alarm bells.

Senior military sources say the staffing crisis is so serious the navy is on the verge of ''tying up'' some warships because of manning shortfalls.

Sailors have told The Daily Telegraph they are willing to take the big dollars on offer in the civilian world because their skills are not being utilised.

''I'm a technician, but I spend most of my time carting garbage,'' one sailor said.

A two-year, tax-free contract could earn an electrical engineer $500,000. It would take that person more than 10 years to earn that amount in the navy.

''I was approached in a bar and offered $US750 a day, tax-free, on the spot,'' a sailor said.

Manning levels have been cut to such an extent that sailors are being forced to undertake a greater range of ''secondary duties'' and work up to 16 hours a day for weeks on end..

Crew members from the frigate HMAS Toowoomba were recently approached in hotel bars in Abu Dhabi and offered huge, tax-free salaries to work nine to five, five days a week.

''We go back on the ship to work 16 hours a day, doing almost everything but what we're trained for,'' a sailor said.

The military is adjusting pay rates across the ranks to reflect skills or ''work value'' rather than length of service.

''But we just can't compete with pay rates in excess of double what we offer, plus cars, superannuation and so on,'' a senior officer said.
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