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Telstra Collective Agreement

September 14 2010 - The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has described a recently negotiated collective agreement covering 10 000 employees of telecommunications and media company Telstra as a major achievement for union members and the Fair Work Act. The new agreement is designed to last for two years, providing guaranteed pay rises of 8 per cent in addition to the 2 per cent awarded in October 2009. It preserves existing terms and conditions of employment, and restores access to arbitration by Fair Work Australia.

ACTU considers this represents a significant change from the previous management's approach to industrial relations, providing a foundation for more constructive future relationships in the workplace. This is likely to enable Telstra to attract and retain skilled staff given its proposed role in the construction of the National Broadband Network.

Jeff Lawrence, ACTU secretary, said:

"Telstra is an iconic Australian company and the negotiation of a new collective agreement sends a powerful message to the rest of the business community about respect for fundamental workplace rights to collective bargaining and union membership. This is also a tribute to the thousands of Telstra workers who stood up to defend their rights and voted to reject the repeated attempts by management to divide the workforce and pressure them into sub-standard job contracts. For too long under the previous management, Telstra clung to WorkChoices even after Australians voted to restore rights at work."

ACTU commented that the pay rises contained in the collective agreement were in marked contrast to the announcement of a pay freeze until at least March 2011 for about 6000 Telstra employees on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) or other non-union contracts.  

Jeff Lawrence added:

"The pay freeze shows how one-sided AWAs are when an employer can unilaterally decide there will be no pay rise, without any negotiation or consultation. By contrast, the new enterprise agreement shows the benefits of collective bargaining. During the life of the new enterprise agreement, unions will be working to ensure that all employees of Telstra ultimately benefit from better wages and conditions and have equal rights. With reports of skill shortages in the telecommunications industry as it ramps up to build the National Broadband Network, this will be in Telstra’s own interests."

Previous article - Telstra To Negotiate With Unions

May 28 2009 - Following the departure of belligerent Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo, the new CEO, David Thodey, apparently signalled a more concilatory approach to employee relations in an email sent to members of Telstra staff. According to the Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union, David Thodey wrote that the company would commence "good-faith bargaining" and begin to negotiate new enterprise agreements from July 1:

"Our aim is to reach a new enterprise agreement that is equitable for both Telstra and our employees. We are committed to treating you and your bargaining representatives with respect, and we will be consulting with Telstra unions ahead of the formal bargaining process."

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said that it showed that workers must always be treated with respect and that the decision by Telstra management was long overdue and an admission that the aggressive and confrontational strategy of the previous Telstra management headed by Sol Trujillo and Donald McGauchie had been a dismal failure.

Jeff Lawrence said:

"Telstra is a major Australian company and yet its standing in the community and its performance as a business have both declined significantly in recent years as a result of the company's belligerent approach to all and sundry.

"The decision to acknowledge the right of employees to be represented by their union is a vindication of the stand taken by staff against the company's unethical behaviour in negotiations.

"Thousands of Telstra workers stood up to defend their rights and voted to reject the repeated attempts by management to pressure them into sub-standard job contracts.

"Telstra management broke off all negotiations with unions in August last year, and subsequently embarked on a blatant strategy to divide its workforce into different classes of employees.

"It was only a matter of time before management would realise its hardline stance was untenable, and the only surprise is it has taken so long.

"This is only a first step towards a fair and rewarding agreement for all Telstra employees.

"Thousands of Telstra employees have not had a pay rise for almost two years and we look forward to sitting down with the new management as soon as possible.

"A new enterprise agreement must be an option for all staff, including those on Australian Workplace Agreements that are yet to expire, and those who had been forced onto non-union agreements in recent months.

"New federal IR laws which begin in July will strengthen workers' rights to collective bargaining and outlaw bad faith and capricious behaviour - so clearly the writing was on the wall for Telstra.

"This decision sends a clear message to employers all around Australia that they must respect fundamental workers' rights to collective bargaining and union membership."

Meanwhile, according to The Age, Sol Trujillo went back to the US proclaiming that Australia was racist (he is of Mexican origin) and that working in Australia was like 'stepping back in time', citing Prime Minister's 'adios' as an example of a racist remark.

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