Telstra must review its industrial relations strategy after the Australian Electoral Commission cast fresh doubt on the validity of non-union workplace ballots conducted by the company, unions say.
The AEC has confirmed that ballots conducted at Telstra were flawed and did not meet the AEC’s minimum standards to ensure ‘free and fair’ elections.
Unions have long had concerns about the conduct of ballots for non-union deals and pressure being placed upon small groups of Telstra staff to vote in favour of them.
Among the concerns are that Telstra refuses to release the results of the ballots, does not allow independent scrutiny of counting, and will not disclose the number of people eligible to vote.
The company has been seeking to implement its non-union agreements in smaller and smaller groups through a slice-and-dice IR strategy after the entire workforce rejected a non-union deal last year.
ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons said the AEC had exposed grave concerns about the legitimacy of more than a dozen ballots held since late last year.
“We no longer have any confidence that the ballots for these non-union deals have been conducted above-board,” Mr Lyons said. “Ballots that did not meet the AEC’s standards should be declared null and void, and the votes should be re-run in an open and transparent manner.
“The AEC’s findings raise issues about whether the results of any of the dozen or so ballots can be believed. Tellingly, rather than conform to the AEC’s standards, Telstra simply took its business elsewhere, to a private operator more used to running ballots at company shareholder meetings.
“Telstra stubbornly continues to refuse to provide any information to the people who vote. What has management got to hide?”
Mr Lyons said individual workers at Telstra were showing great courage after being placed under intense pressure from management to vote in favour of the non-union deals. Despite these concerns, staff in Telstra IT this week rejected the company’s latest non-union offer.
Telstra workers are continuing industrial action around the country to force the company to begin negotiations for a company-wide enterprise agreement.
More than 8000 of Telstra’s workers are authorised to take protected industrial action, which is having an impact on services with reports of a blow-out in unattended faults and system breakdowns of mobile phone networks and electronic banking.
Mr Lyons said Telstra was attempting to exploit the last days of Work Choices to push through inferior deals and bypass unions before the Fair Work Bill became law later this year.
The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) represent more than 8000 Telstra workers.
In conjunction with the ACTU they are calling on Telstra management to re-enter negotiations over a new collective agreement and transition arrangements for staff on AWAs.