IBM strike could happen Thursday

IBM Australia could face strike action in a Baulkham Hills, Sydney facility on Thursday or Friday this week, according to the Australian Services Union, after the company failed to negotiate with the union over the weekend.

IBM Australia could face strike action in a Baulkham Hills, Sydney facility on Thursday or Friday this week, according to the Australian Services Union, after the company failed to negotiate with the union over the weekend.

Sally McManus

Sally McManus, Branch Secretary of the Australian Services Union, had said on Friday that she was hoping IBM would approach the union after 45 workers at the company's "Flightdeck" facility in Sydney's Baulkham Hills decided via secret ballot to strike for better pay and conditions last week.

However, the company had not come to the table. "IBM's not contacted us at all. Absolutely nothing has happened," McManus told ZDNet.com.au this morning.

The union organiser said she thought the workers would go on strike on Thursday or Friday this week as a result.

Although the number of employees engaged in the strike was low in comparison to the thousands of staff IBM engaged across the country, McManus said that the group's bargaining power was high because the workers concerned were key to IBM's ability to service important customers.

"This group of workers is extremely industrially powerful," she said. "The work that they do is absolutely critical to the contracts that IBM has with their customers."

Westpac was one of the customers which would feel the heat of the strike, if it went ahead, McManus said. "What these workers do is monitor the infrastructure and monitor the batch processing so that if there is any small or medium problem they fix it. If these workers don't do that, that puts at risk billions of dollars of transactions."

Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand were also customers which would be hit, according to McManus, with IBM handling ticketing, rostering and crewing systems through the Baulkham Hills facility.

"If their IT infrastructure fails, planes won't fly," McManus said.

Customs and Medicare were two more major customers the strike could affect, and these big ticket contracts were "just the tip of the iceberg" the union secretary warned.

"IBM's got hundreds of customers. These people are absolutely mission-critical," she said.

Stay tuned for a complete video interview with McManus.

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