Legal

Telstra non-union battle plans revealed

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The battle between unions and business to seize a strong position in the post-WorkChoices world has escalated today with the release of documents outlining a Telstra plan to save millions by putting staff on non-union agreements.

The battle between unions and business to seize a strong position in the post-WorkChoices world has escalated today with the release of documents outlining a Telstra plan to save millions by putting staff on non-union agreements.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions obtained confidential documents which reveal Telstra’s two pronged strategy to combat union attempts to drive wage bargaining in the business.

Under option one, Telstra would roll out non-union collective agreements across the business. If workers refuse to ratify them, they will receive no new pay rises until October 2009.

The second option eschews collective bargaining entirely, instead opting to provide staff with “policy-based” pay increases; non-negotiated pay rises awarded unilaterally by the company.

Either way, the documents make clear Telstra’s strong commitment to rebuffing calls for union collective agreements and its strong focus on retaining one-on-one relationships with staff.

And the company clearly believes there is a significant bottom-line logic to doing so, with the non-union strategy estimated to save up to $37 million in wages costs over three years.

Telstra’s consideration of policy-based payments is particularly interesting. It is a tactic that will only work with the support of staff, and suggests the company is prepared to provide substantial pay rises in exchange for minimising union involvement with its workforce.

CCI Victoris Legal principal Peter Vitale says the policy-based payment strategy is a new feature that has emerged in the current highly uncertain industrial relations environment. “It is absolutely an option to decide to give unilateral pay rises to staff and that is an option many legal advisers would be presenting to their clients at the moment,” Vitale says.

An assertive union campaign for coverage is also emerging in the Australasian operations of IT giant IBM, according to reports today.

A small number of Australian Services Union members at IBM are currently voting in a secret ballot on whether they will take industrial action.

Legal arguments by IBM that the union was not entitled to cover its workers were rejected by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which ruled the secret ballot could go ahead.

 

Read more on Telstra

 

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