Unions trump Telstra lawyers again

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission today refused an application by Telstra to postpone mediation with unions until the telco's appeal about the commission's jurisdiction in the case could be held.

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission today refused an application by Telstra to postpone mediation with unions until the telco's appeal about the commission's jurisdiction in the case could be held.

Telstra had applied for a stay order on hearings until an appeal on an AIRC decision earlier in the week — which said that the commission could play a role in resolving the ongoing dispute between Telstra and the unions. The stay order request was heard and denied today by AIRC president Geoffrey Giudice.

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.

If the stay order had been granted, a hearing scheduled for Saturday morning at 10am to consider whether the AIRC could order a ballot on whether employees wanted a union or non-union agreement would have been cancelled. Since the stay order was denied, the hearing will go ahead.

"The ballot is the most democratic way of giving employees a say in whether they want an employment agreement negotiated by unions," ACTU assistant secretary Chris Walton said in a statement after the hearing.

The refusal of the stay order was the third legal defeat for Telstra this week. The losing streak started with the AIRC decision early this week, followed by the Federal Court dismissing Telstra's allegations that its unions had been feeding its employees false statements.

Telstra was, however, upbeat about the loss.

"We're back before the commission tomorrow and our focus is on ensuring our employees get their chance to vote on the agreement and to get the pay increases they deserve," a spokesperson said.

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