Morale: Australia Sends All Its Sailors Home


November 23,2008: In order to improve morale, and help with recruiting, the Australian Navy is giving some 95 percent of its sailors two months of paid leave (starting December 3rd). Only enough sailors will stay on duty to perform essential patrols, and guard the ships and bases.

Currently, the navy only has about 87 percent of the personnel it is authorized. The shortage is particularly difficult with technical specialists. The Australian Navy has been suffering from a serious geek shortage for several years now. With a total strength of 13,000, being short a few dozen people in some job categories can have serious repercussions, and that's what is keeping a lot of ships from even going to sea. For example, the navy is short about a third of the marine engineering officers it needs. There are less serious shortages in officers specializing in electrical systems and weapons systems. Australian warships have been active in the war on terror, resulting in many crews being away from home for up to six months at a time. There are shortages of both officers and sailors with technical skills. Many of those in undermanned job categories are overworked, and more prone to leaving the service. Potential recruits for these categories are similarly discouraged.

The situation was, until recently, further complicated by a booming economy, and big demand for those with engineering degrees, and a few years of experience. This made it easy for engineering officers to leave the navy and get a higher paying, and more comfortable, job. The navy is responding with cash bonuses, better living and working conditions, and other fringe benefits. But the recent recession, and cutbacks in orders for raw materials from China, has made it easier for recruiters. If the hard times get harder, and go on for a while, the navy made find it up to strength.

All Western navies have similar problems, and have applied similar solutions, with some degree of success.


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