Executives of one of Telstra's key unions will meet this Thursday to
decide whether it will take the first step down the path of
industrial action, an eventuality one union official thinks
The Communications and Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) will debate whether to hold a vote for its
almost 10,000 Telstra members on whether to hold industrial action or
not. If the union decides it does want to
put the option to its members, it will have to apply to the
Australian Industrial Relations Commission for permission to hold
Assuming that goes ahead, members will vote
on whether they would be prepared to undertake specific forms of
industrial actions such as 24- or 48-hour stoppages.
Burt Blackburne, national assistant secretary of the
communications division of CEPU, said that he didn't want to
pre-empt the union executives' decision, but his personal opinion was
that they would decide on taking a ballot.
The CEPU had already warned
earlier this month that industrial action was on the cards
as its attempts to negotiate a collective agreement failed.
The CEPU as well as fellow unions the Australian Professional
Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia and the Community and
Public Sector Union had been negotiating with Telstra for new
employment agreements to replace expiring Australian Workplace
Agreements. However, the talks broke down in
July, and the unions have said Telstra has been unprepared to come back to the
Since then there has been action in the Australian Industrial
Relations Commission to try and bring the telco back to talks, but
found that it did not have the jurisdiction to force mediation.
Last week Telstra presented a non-union agreement to its
employees, following workers last month voting down other non-union agreements
put to the wholesale and service advantage (call centric) divisions.
CEPU has been holding meetings around the country, explaining
the situation to its members, talking to them about what they want
in their agreement and more recently, canvassing the idea of
industrial action. Meetings in all states except the Northern Territory
have now been concluded, and the territory is planned for next month,
according to Blackburne. "Right across Australia, the people are
pretty supportive," he said.
When asked if he thought industrial action will occur in the
next few months, Blackburne said he considered it "highly
likely", although he added that Telstra might still come to the
table. "The mere fact of going to a ballot might jog the
process," he said. "But you just don't know."
Telstra did not respond to requests for comment.