Telstra didn't turn up to a hearing today by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission concerning a union agreement for workers.
On August 28, unions representing Telstra workers put forward an application to the AIRC for permission to conduct a secret ballot on whether Telstra workers would support a union-negotiated collective agreement after Telstra walked out on union talks in July, and blackballed the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) last month.
The unions indicated they felt that the workers were too frightened to ask for representation because they believed they would lose their jobs.
The AIRC held a hearing today to consider the application, but Telstra didn't show. Although the ACTU could not comment on the contents of the hearing, it vented its annoyance at the telco's absence.
A spokesperson from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said the unions looked to the AIRC to mediate based on a section of the Workplace Relations Act, which states that a person may apply to the commission to conduct an alternative resolution process under certain conditions.
Under this section of the legislation, however, the commission had no power to compel a party to do anything, or make an order in relation to the matter, meaning that Telstra could not be forced to attend the hearing and would need to agree to the ballot if it were to go ahead.
"Telstra's management has shown contempt for both the AIRC and its workforce by not turning up today," ACTU assistant secretary Chris Walton said in a statement after the hearing.
"We can only conclude that by its point blank refusal to contemplate a ballot, Telstra is afraid of what the result would tell it: the vast majority of workers don't trust management and want to be represented by a union," he continued.
Telstra, however, didn't feel the application was valid. "This is just another stunt from the unions as there is no basis or jurisdiction for the application," a spokesperson said.
"Telstra has advised the commission that, as there is no basis or jurisdiction for the application, we will not be going along with the unions' stunt and wasting the commission's time," they added.