IBM Australia faces strike action

A section of under 100 employees who work in the "Flightdeck" at Baulkam Hills, Australia want a collective agreement granting them better pay and work conditions.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor
IBM's Australian operation is facing the possibility of strike action among its workforce after a secret ballot opened yesterday for employees in a Baulkham Hills facility.

A section of under 100 employees who work in the "Flightdeck" at Baulkam Hills want a collective agreement granting them better pay and work conditions. So-called "Flightdeck" due to the rows of computers and big screens, which looks like a flight deck.

According to statements published by the Australian Services Union (ASU), after IBM Flightdeck employee meetings in June, the 46 Flightdeck employees in the union voted to apply for a protected action ballot with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) which would decide whether to take legal industrial action.

The application was heard on July 1 by the AIRC, which also took into account IBM's objection that the ASU was ineligible to represent the interests of workers at the Flightdeck.

Last week the AIRC issued orders for a protected action ballot, which opened yesterday and will close on August 29.

The aim of the negotiations was to achieve rights for all Flightdeck employees including regular pay rises, pay equity, travel allowance, fair redundancy and retrenchment provisions, paid shift handover periods, fair access to leave entitlements and time off in lieu, shift penalties and the option to work from home.

The decision to have a protected ballot was not met without attempts at bargaining with the company for an agreement, according to the ASU, which said it notified IBM through the AIRC of the commencement of a bargaining period.

According to the ASU, although IBM organized round-table meetings to listen to the concerns of Flightdeck workers, they weren't ready to address the employees' concerns, leading to the decision to apply for the ballot.

The union commenced a second bargaining period to pursue a non-union agreement while waiting for the AIRC's decision on the ballot. IBM agreed to meet Thursday morning to discuss it. However, the ASU said it had obtained legal advice that said it was necessary to either choose a non-union or a union agreement, and since it perceived that IBM had only agreed to discuss the non-union agreement to avoid fines for not doing so, it decided to go ahead with the ballot action to obtain a union agreement, and told IBM that it could meet to discuss that agreement yesterday at the time already elected.

IBM refused to meet to discuss the union agreement, according to the ASU, saying the representatives were unavailable.

An IBM spokesperson responded to queries with this statement: "We are engaged in ongoing discussions with employees at the site in question to address any issues directly. IBM is widely recognized as an employer of choice, offering competitive remuneration and a very broad range of benefits for employees."

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