Telstra leaves unions at the altar

Telstra leaves unions at the altar

Summary: Telstra didn't turn up to a hearing today by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission concerning a union agreement for workers.

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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.

Topics: Telcos, Telstra, IT Employment

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

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 the site.

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Talkback

7 comments
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  • And nor should they

    "Under this section of the legislation, however, the commission had no power to compel a party to do anything"

    Why should an employer be compelled to pay a group of employees more if they cannot demonstrate an increase in productivity? The fact that union representation is now less than 20% of the total workforce proves that most people have got over pissing in the pockets of union coffers and are now doing more to look after their own interests and that is exactly the way it should be.
    anonymous
  • Absolutely Correct!

    Unions should not be able to blackmail employers into agreements that do not guarantee a fair deal for both parties.

    Telstra is right in this instance and should stand their ground.
    anonymous
  • Unions not in best interest

    Why should the employee wast there time with these people. If the unions want to start this type of rubbish we may lower wages to the award instead of paying well over the awards now. Go back to sleep ACTU and stop whinging.
    anonymous
  • Another Telstra Stooge

    Guess who got the higher rates of pay for the employees? not you tyrants.
    anonymous
  • Telstra Should

    How are the unions blackmailing Telstra? The unions want a vote of emploees to see if the Telcos employees want the union to negotiate on their behalf. The current Telstra pay offer is just that it's an offer there has been no negotiation with it's employees, who want a better offer.
    anonymous
  • Term here is employees

    Not the unions, Telstra wants to go directly to the employees and not through the unions.
    anonymous
  • Another union stooge

    And you think you are any better, at least there are no union fees that have to be paid.
    anonymous