The Australian Services Union (ASU) claimed yesterday that IT giant IBM was looking to offshore around 800 jobs, many more than the 150 positions the union had originally believed affected.
Workers had been told that the services for each of IBM's customers, except for the Federal Government, could be potentially offshored to low cost centres in India and China, ASU branch secretary Sally McManus said in a statement.
"We understand that there are potentially 800 jobs that will be lost," she said. Last week, the union had flagged that IBM was looking at offshoring, but had estimated the number of affected jobs to be only around 150.
There were also suggestions that some of the work could be sent to Ballarat, according to McManus.
"Company representatives have told workers that whilst they cannot tell them a definite decision has been made that their individual jobs will be affected yet workers should 'read between the lines' and prepare their CVs," McManus said.
In a company statement, IBM did not dispute the new claims.
"IBM continuously transforms its business, rebalancing skills and capabilities in order to meet the changing needs of clients and our business as a whole," it said.
"We hired to build skills in key growth areas throughout the global financial crisis, increasing our overall employee number in Australia and New Zealand by more than 30 per cent over the past five years. We will continue to hire in 2010, and we expect to end the year with more employees than when the year began," the company said. According to the company's website, IBM has around 14,000 people in Australia.
IBM spokesperson Matt Mollett declined to comment further, referring ZDNet.com.au to the company statement.
The IT giant wouldn't discuss the offshoring with the union, McManus said.
"IBM has been refusing to meet ASU representatives since December last year and have been using legal means to fight our demands to negotiate," McManus said.
The ASU was therefore preparing to take action in Fair Work Australia to ensure workers were "represented and have a union involved in negotiations", she said. "Workers wish to bargain for issues such as a fair process should there be redundancies."
The workers believed they should receive extra redundancy payments when skilled jobs were sent overseas as jobs were "lost" to Australia forever.
McManus reiterated her concern that overseas-based workers would not provide the same level of service to companies as those based in Australia. "We believe there is an increased risk of 'data theft' with offshoring and this is something IBM customers — ultimately the public — should be concerned about."