It's on: Telstra strikes to go ahead

Unionised Telstra workers are officially ready to strike for better pay, with voting results released this afternoon and last week showing the majority of workers recently polled were in favour of industrial action.

update Unionised Telstra workers are officially ready to strike for better pay, with voting results released this afternoon and last week showing the majority of workers recently polled were in favour of industrial action.

(On Strike image by Seth Anderson, CC2.0)

Annoucements on the action will be made in the next 24 hours, the the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) said, releasing voting results this afternoon. In the recent poll, over three-quarters of Telstra workers eligible to cast a vote did so, or around 4,400 votes from 5675. The union said the "overwhelming response" showed that Telstra workers were fed up.

The poll result follows a similar result last week amongst workers represented by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), with 93 per cent of about 1000 workers voting to strike, although a number also did not vote.

CEPU said that it would now decide which form of industrial action workers will take. The possibilities put to the workers included an unlimited number of four, 24 and 48 hour rolling stoppages of work; an unlimited number of indefinite or periodic bans on overtime (paid and unpaid), recalls/call backs, performing higher duties and not attending management meetings; and an unlimited number of indefinite stoppages at work.

"While Telstra's CEO secures a $13.4m pay packet with little fuss, Telstra workers on $60,000 a year have had to struggle to get a fair agreement. That's not right or fair," the union said. "And just as bad, Telstra is rolling out individual non-union agreements that might cover 20 employees at a time — the process of securing wage agreements in Australia's fourth-largest company has become ridiculous."

Any industrial action the union took would be aimed at Telstra, not its customers, the union stressed. It also said that emergency calls and "vital" services to rural areas would be kept running during strike action.

The union said that it would have liked to negotiate with Telstra, but the company rejected all its requests to get back to the table. The unions have said they have repeatedly tried to negotiate with Telstra in good faith, but the company rejected all our requests to get back to the bargaining table.

Telstra was unable to comment yesterday, but today a spokesman said that the vote had changed nothing since the telco was continuing to talk to employees, 5,000 of whom have expressed interest in an employee collective agreement.

According to the spokesperson, the offer which Telstra had put forward to employees protects current terms and conditions of enterprise agreement employees and guarantees 12.5 per cent pay increases over three years, as well as up to 7.5 per cent in performance-related bonuses, with a minimum increase of 4.5 per cent in the first year.

When its chief operating officer Greg Winn was asked about the union's ballot last week, he said he was not concerned.

"I'm not an industrial relations expert, but I'm not worried about that. We're talking about a project that's going to go over multiple years... There's at least a few months before this stuff gets settled. We only have a certain portion of our force that's impacted by that," he said.