Telstra workers could be poised to strike after union members voted for the option of industrial action amid an ongoing pay row.
Around 1,600 Telstra members of the CEPU Communications Union voted to potentially take action after the telco offered workers a 1.5 per cent pay rise per year until 2022 - something the union argued was below current inflation.
The vote will legally allow members to walk out should the two parties fail to come to a resolution.
“Workers have spent many months trying to get Telstra to come to the table with a fair wage offer,” said union national president Shane Murphy. “We’ve got to this point because Telstra is asking workers to take a pay cut in real terms.”
“At this stage, no action is being undertaken,” he added. “This result provides workers with the option of taking protected industrial action if we need to go down that track.”
The union also pointed to Telstra’s recent decision to slash 8,000 jobs by 2022. Of these, 3,200 workers have so far been let go across Australia.
The telco was also earlier criticised for its plans to open ‘Innovation and Capability Centre’ in Bangalore, which will employ around 300 software engineers.
The union said CEO Andy Penn showed "complete disrespect” to workers over his comments that Telstra was unable to find the necessary skills for the roles in Australia.
Up to 3,200 of Telstra’s 31,000-strong workforce were eligible to take the CEPU vote, of whom 56 per cent cast a ballot.
A Telstra spokesman said CEPU’s hopes for a 12 per cent pay rise over three years “without any productivity improvements” were “unrealistic”.
“While it is disappointing that the CEPU has decided to encourage this action, we respect the right of the union and its membership to do so,” the spokesman added.
“Our focus will be on ensuring that our customers and business are not affected by the CEPU’s action. Our customers can expect business-as-usual as our planning provides for continuous operations in the event of industrial action.”