Union won't budge for Telstra's IBM push

After expanding its supply chain outsourcing agreement with IBM late last year, Telstra warned of job losses by June as the computing giant replaced the telco's staff with its own in some technical areas, but the union representing the workers has stepped in to broker a stronger deal for those facing redundancy.

After expanding its supply chain outsourcing agreement with IBM late last year, Telstra warned of job losses and transfers. With the changes now looming, the union representing the workers has stepped in to broker a deal for those facing redundancy.

Around a third of Telstra's 335 inventory management and legacy systems repair staff are scheduled to be let go between March and June this year after assisting in training new staff, with the remaining two-thirds to be offered jobs with IBM under its AU$200 million services deal with Telstra.

However, intervention by the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) on behalf of its members has stalled the telco's plans for an unhindered transition, with the union requesting that all staff -- including those to be kept on by IBM -- be paid full redundancy by Telstra and be allowed to sign a collective Enterprise Bargaining Agreement rather than a individual Commonwealth Workplace Agreement offered to them by the computing giant.

"Until we've got assurances on these two things we're not going to commence anything further," said Len Cooper, Victorian CEPU secretary.

"At the time we announced that a large number of our employees currently performing this work would receive comparable job offers from IBM or its service partners," a Telstra spokesperson said in a statement. "At the end of knowledge transfer, staff will then be given the opportunity to apply for other jobs within Telstra and have access to a career transition program, which is designed to assist employees find alternative work outside Telstra."

Cooper told ZDNet.com.au that Union delegates had planned to meet with Telstra executives on Thursday afternoon to open up proceedings, but remained adamant that the union would not budge on its stated aims.

"It's almost a bit of a stalemate at this stage, but we haven't had any formal negotiations yet. At this stage all we've agreed to do is talk," he said.

"Most of their work is highly specialised and they're very long term employees -- you can't just start up again without even a minimal number of them there," said Cooper.

Telstra's spokesperson said today the company's original offer remained unchanged, and that the employees have a choice to either accept a comparable job offer from IBM, or continue assisting with the "knowledge transfer" till their redundancy becomes effective in June.

"Our members are saying they won't cooperate until they get the terms of agreement we're seeking, and Telstra can't start up the new outsourced business until they get the personnel on board," said the Union secretary.

Telstra's spokesperson said the expansion of the company's agreement with IBM was on track and unaltered.

"By industry standards, Telstra has very generous redundancy arrangements and best-practice redeployment arrangements to assist people to find alternative work," said the spokesperson.

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