Fair Work Australia has rejected IBM's application for a stay on negotiations with the Australian Services Union on behalf of employees until it can appeal a tribunal determination that it must negotiate.
Lawyers acting on behalf of IBM argued the ruling was incorrect in declaring that employees at the IBM centre in Baulkham Hills were eligible to be represented by the union. They argued that the employees did not meet the description of a technical services employee as detailed by the ASU because their job was to maintain software systems rather than the physical hardware.
IBM lawyers also argued that if the ASU were to seek to bargain before the appeal, IBM could be liable if it did not comply.
ASU lawyers countered that the definition of a technical services employee under the ASU eligibility rules was not specific to hardware, which was "little more than a door stop" without software.
The ASU also said that the recent announcement of retrenchments by IBM highlighted the urgent need for employees to be able to negotiate in regards to severance pay and other entitlements.
In his rejection of the stay request, Senior Deputy President Boulton said that there was not a reasonable chance the appeal would win, and that beginning the negotiation process between IBM and the employees could only be beneficial to both parties. He concluded that the definition of a technical service employee was open to interpretation due to advancements in technology since the rule's conception back in the 1970's.
The judgement allows the Australian Services Union (ASU) to begin negotiations with IBM on behalf of the 84 employees at Big Blue's Baulkham Hills centre before the appeal of the decision, which is expected to occur between 27 to 29 July.
In a statement released this afternoon, ASU Branch Secretary Sally McManus said IBM's application "went down in a screaming heap" and revealed that the ASU has now demanded a meeting and response to the ASU claims served two weeks ago.