Union denies Telstra strike has stalled

The national president of Telstra's main union has rejected the idea that its industrial action isn't getting anywhere, despite a lack of visible progress since it started three months ago.

The national president of Telstra's main union has rejected the idea that its industrial action isn't getting anywhere, despite a lack of visible progress since it started three months ago.

Ed Husic
(Credit: CEPU)

Telstra's unions first proclaimed their decision to strike in December and have been holding various forms of industrial action since then to target specific areas where bad performance would hurt the company most.

Yet there has been little general uproar (despite complaints from some banking customers) about any inconveniences the strike is causing, and Telstra has vehemently denied the strike has been having any affect on its customers, leaving uncertainty hanging in the air as to whether anything has been achieved by workers walking off work.

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union national president Ed Husic said that Telstra was hurting — it just wasn't admitting it.

"I think they're noticing on the big projects but playing a really good game at pretending publicly that every thing's OK — simply ignoring or not providing the full stats as to the impact of the action itself," he told ZDNet.com.au.

The union had wreaked havoc on major projects in the finance and banking sector, Husic said, with no less than three delays to "transformation" projects such as introducing a new type of ATM. "Telstra can deny the impact as much as it wants, but we know that what we're doing is having an effect," Husic said.

Telstra can deny the impact as much as it wants, but we know that what we're doing is having an effect.

Ed Husic

"You would have to expect Telstra to deny the impact of the action. You would have to expect that their customers like the NAB and the Commonwealth would deny it because they want to have their customers assured that their services aren't impacted. But all three, they have standards of accountability to their customers to their shareholders... It's up to them to determine whether or not they believe they are being upfront," he continued.

When ZDNet.com.au ran a story in January about CEPU claims that Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo had been called in to deal with complaints from the Commonwealth Bank and the National Australia Bank, the Commonwealth admitted there were some concerns it was working through with the telco, while the NAB denied the strike was causing any problems.

Neither bank returned requests for comment in time for this article.

Despite any effect the strike might be having, the union has received no olive branch from Telstra wanting to come back to the negotiating table.

Husic wouldn't put a time line on how long the union would be prepared to continue the strike, but he said he had always expected it to be a long-term action because of the way the union was handling it. "By its very nature, it's been one that's going to be running over many months. There aren't quick fixes or blazes of drama here. It's a difficult long campaign," he said.

There aren't quick fixes or blazes of drama here.

Ed Husic

It is, however, a campaign with a time limit as long as the new fair work legislation goes through without alterations to the good faith bargaining provisions, Husic said.

The new legislation would mean that Telstra would have to come back to the bargaining table as of 1 July, he said.

This did not mean it was a time to end the strike and wait for the law to force Telstra to the table, he said, despite the fact that unionised employees were sacrificing their pay for it to go ahead.

Workers wanted changes now, so that pay rises could flow through sooner and workers could have security around their jobs sooner. "They're saying get this deal done," he said.

Telstra did not respond to requests for comment.

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