Telstra ends union talks, direct deals with its 32,000 workers

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Telstra ends union talks, direct deals with its 32,000 workers

Telstra has broken off negotiating union enterprise agreements for its 32,000 workers and will instead try to deal with them directly.

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Telstra has broken off negotiating union enterprise agreements for its 32,000 workers and will instead try to deal with them directly.

Telstra has blamed the breakdown in negotiations on an ‘illegal’ side agreement allegedly being demanded by unions under which their support for Telstra winning the contract to build a $5 billion broadband network is conditional on a union-friendly agreement.

The company is concerned that the terms of the union agreement would mean it could not comply with Commonwealth codes and guidelines for winning federal contracts.

However, unions accused Telstra of wanting to cling to WorkChoices-like arrangements. Telstra signed up 15,000 of its employees to AWAs after last year’s November federal election but before new AWAs became illegal on 27 March 2008.

Non-union agreement

Telstra said it is looking at ‘all options’ for its workforce, which could involve a non-union collective agreement - something which Labor has said its forthcoming Fair Work Australia IR system will support.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said Telstra workers will be very disappointed with the decision taken by the company’s Human Resources managers to call off talks with unions.

He said the decision by managers to call off talks will put at risk the future pay and job conditions of around 32,000 Telstra workers.

‘Calling off talks at such an early stage of negotiations is not at all helpful,’ Lawrence said.

‘There are 11,000 Telstra workers whose collective agreement is due to expire later this year.'

‘There are also more than 21,000 workers at Telstra who are on AWAs that will expire in the near future.'

‘The Rudd Government has banned new AWAs, so these workers want and deserve some certainty about their wages and entitlements. They also want the security of being represented by their union.’

Orderly transition needed

Lawrence said Telstra needs to sit down with unions and plan for an orderly transition to a collective agreement that will protect the pay and conditions of all Telstra workers.

‘WorkChoices and the use of AWA individual contracts were resoundingly rejected by the Australian public at last year's federal election,’ he said.

‘The position of the company’s management is also at odds with public opinion. A Galaxy survey conducted last week shows overwhelming support for the immediate restoration of collective bargaining rights for Australian workers.'

‘Ignored election result’

‘It is appalling that the company’s management ignored the result of the election and went ahead to sign up a further 15,000 employees onto new AWAs after the election and before AWAs were banned by the new Government.’

‘We encourage the company‘s management to drop its obsessive adherence to WorkChoices and to adopt a more cooperative approach with its staff and sit down with unions,’ Lawrence said.


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