All quiet at EDS Australia's union

EDS Australia's heavily unionised workforce has not yet started airing any issues associated with the Texan outsourcing giant's US$13.9 billion acquisition by Hewlett-Packard, according to a key union representative.

EDS Australia's heavily unionised workforce has not yet started airing any issues associated with the Texan outsourcing giant's US$13.9 billion acquisition by Hewlett-Packard, according to a key union representative.

Early this month, EDS shareholders approved the US$13.9 million global takeover by behemoth HP, a deal which holds the potential for significant consequences for the company's employees, such as redundancies or role changes.

However, EDS' main local union, the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists & Managers, Australia (APESMA) has so far heard no rumblings of discontent from EDS workers.

"At this stage no — it's probably too early for that," Michael Butler, acting CEO for APESMA told ZDNet.com.au last week. "There's not been anything that's been brought to our attention."

The CEO said that it was possible that something could arise, but that it would depend on the extent of integration the companies would undergo.

The transaction was tipped to be finalised sometime in August. Butler said if something were to happen on the union front, it would likely be in the first six months after the deal was closed. HP and EDS both declined to comment before the formal completion of the deal.

Hewlett-Packard in mid-2006 offshored some Australian support work to Malaysia, saying most customers would accept the move as long as service levels remained consistent. The move saw redundancies among the 450-strong Australian remote support team for HP's managed service business.

EDS Australia employs a workforce of more than 6,000 people and maintains offices all around Australia according to the company's website.

EDS employees have previously saddled up for war when pay conditions went bad, looking to APESMA for answers in 2005 after the company offered a zero per cent pay rise in a non-union collective agreement.

It's probably too early for that

APESMA acting CEO Michael Butler

At the time, according to a survey conducted by the union, over 80 per cent of the approximately 5,000 employees supported APESMA negotiating a collective agreement for EDS staff and 65 per cent believed their salaries were below the norm.

Also 60 per cent of EDS employees felt morale at the IT giant was poor. A significant number of employees had not received a salary increase for up to four years, the union said.

The HP/EDS merger comes at a sensitive time for Australia's technology workers, with professionals at several large companies increasingly looking to unions to play a strong role in their workplace negotiations.

IBM's Australian operation is currently facing the possibility of strike action amongst its workforce, with a small section of under 100 staff in the company's Baulkham Hills facility this week voting in a secret ballot on industrial action. The workers are represented by the Australian Services Union.

At Telstra, unions including the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) have been fighting a running battle with the telco's management over the past several months over collective agreements. The debate has at times generated commentary from external parties as high up as deputy prime minister Julia Gillard.

The Communication Workers' Union of Australia has also gotten involved in the demise of diversified ICT services firm Commander, attending the group's first creditor's meeting to push its claim for employees to be paid entitlements.

ZDNet.com.au's Renai LeMay contributed to this article.

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