Unions today said Telstra would appeal a decision by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), which found that the Commission had the power to help mediate between the telco and the workers' representatives.
"We've just been advised that Telstra has appealed [Australian Industrial Relations Commission] senior deputy president [Brian] Lacy's decision [of this week]," said Chris Walton, assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
The unions had been negotiating with Telstra to form new enterprise bargaining agreements to replace expiring Australian Workplace Agreements. In July, negotiations broke down and Telstra refused to deal with the unions the month after.
The unions applied to the AIRC to mediate in the dispute and to be able to hold a secret ballot on whether Telstra workers wanted a union or non-union agreement. Telstra didn't turn up to the hearing held to consider the application, saying the commission had no jurisdiction.
The commission considered the matter, with Lacy ruling this week that it did have jurisdiction to play a role in mediating the dispute when one party refused to negotiate, a situation he believed to be the case with Telstra.
"Telstra's strategy from the outset was to make it appear that it was prepared to negotiate an agreement with the unions but without any real intention to do so," he said in the ruling.
It is this decision which Telstra intended to appeal. The date for the appeal has not been set, although a hearing will be held with the commission's president Geoffrey Giudice tomorrow to obtain a stay order so no hearings can go ahead until the appeal has been settled, a spokesperson for the AIRC said.
"We would hope Telstra after today's loss would reconsider that decision and finally recognise the fundamental rights of workers to be represented and to bargain collectively," Walton said in response to the appeal.
"It's time Telstra listened to their employees rather than seek legal manoeuvres," he said. "Telstra unions remain ready and willing to re-enter negotiations."
If the stay order was granted, this would postpone a hearing which had been scheduled for Saturday with Lacy on the matter of the secret ballot, the AIRC spokesperson said. The company already declined to take part in a conciliation conference held yesterday by the commission at the request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, according to an AIRC document.
Separately, Telstra has commenced legal action in the Federal Court, accusing the unions of spreading false and misleading statements amongst Telstra employees. A hearing was held today on the matter in Melbourne, where the Federal Court ruled in favour of the unions, according to the ACTU.
Telstra did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.