Workers will protest against the behaviour of major employers that are continuing to use WorkChoices at the Senate Inquiry into the Rudd Labor Government’s Fair Work Bill today (Monday, 16 February).

The unethical behaviour of Telstra management in denying the rights of its employees to union representation demonstrates why WorkChoices must be abolished urgently, workers and their unions will tell Senate Inquiry hearings this week.

The Community and Public Sector Union – one of the three unions representing workers employed by Telstra – will appear before a Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill in Melbourne today (Monday). The ACTU will appear at the Inquiry in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Telstra management has refused to meet with unions to negotiate a collective agreement for employees since last July. Workers at the telco have not had a pay rise since September 2007.

Members of the CPSU and the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union are now taking protected industrial action to pressure the company to respect the rights of its employees and come back to negotiations.

ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Telstra has been one of the most high-profile supporters of WorkChoices and continues to take every advantage of the remnants of the Howard Government’s laws to undermine workers’ rights.

“The company’s submission to the Senate Inquiry is also pushing for changes to the Federal Government’s IR proposals that would strengthen the power of employers and weaken the rights of employees to good faith collectively bargaining and union representation.

“Other employers, including in the large retail sector, are trying to use the last gasps of WorkChoices to lock retail workers into job contracts that would leave them out-of-pocket by more than $5500 a year.

“It is vital that Labor’s new IR laws are amended to give Australian workers strong collective bargaining rights and are passed by Parliament as soon as possible,” said Mr Lawrence.