Unions flag Telstra AGM action

Summary:Telstra's unions will descend on the telco's annual general meeting in Melbourne this Friday to exhort shareholders to ask the telco why it has taken such a hard line with unions and to highlight risks associated with the national broadband network.

Telstra's unions will descend on the telco's annual general meeting in Melbourne this Friday to exhort shareholders to ask the telco why it has taken such a hard line with unions and to highlight risks associated with the national broadband network.

(Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)

A spokesperson for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said that union members would be handing out pamphlets on entry and that some union employees would attend the AGM to ask some questions.

"We'll be there for two reasons. Firstly to tell shareholders why members are probably going to vote to take industrial action," the spokesperson said.

After Telstra walked away from the negotiating table in July without having decided on conditions to replace those in expiring Australian Workplace Agreements, unions have tried various avenues to try and get what they consider to be fair terms for their members.

However, trips since to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to force mediation have been in vain, and a deal Telstra put to some of its employees was voted down. The unions held meetings across the country canvassing the idea of industrial action and earlier this month went to the AIRC to ask permission to hold a strike ballot asking union members whether they were prepared to undertake unlimited stoppages of up to 24 hours at a time. The AIRC granted permission.

This ballot will also commence on Friday, although it was not specifically timed to coincide, according to the ACTU spokesperson.

The second reason the unions were attending the AGM was to make sure the shareholders considered — and asked pertinent questions — about the extra pages Telstra had been forced to include with the notice of AGM about potential business risks the national broadband network posed to the company.

These claimed risks included Telstra walking away from the tender process for the broadband network, which the shareholders considered might erode Telstra's value, and that the telco might be forced to separate its operations if it won, again potentially causing share prices to drop. The last risk outlined was that any new regulatory regime to come in place with the broadband network would endanger the telco's profits.

The national broadband network has received further attention from the unions this week, with Telstra's unions releasing a statement of principles they believe must be adhered to for the national broadband network to be a success for Australia. The release followed a meeting the unions held last week with members of the Australia Labor Party caucus.

The unions slammed Telstra in a statement accompanying the principles, blaming the company for the "current parlous state" of Australia's broadband as well as calling into question the "exorbitant" 18 per cent return it was demanding for building the network, in contrast to rival Terria's 12 per cent.

ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons also pointed out the importance of the network builder having fair work principles.

"The successful bidder must have a co-operative relationship with its workforce within the framework of the federal government's Forward with Fairness industrial relations policy," he said in a statement.

"This means recognising the right of employees to collectively bargain and have union representation, and providing quality jobs with decent pay and conditions," he continued.

"No government could seriously consider allowing a multi-billion tender to go to a company that does not have the appropriate industrial relations arrangements in place."

Topics: NBN, Broadband, Telcos, Telstra

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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