UPDATE: Union plans IBM GSA strike

The CPSU (Community and Public Sector Union), also known as the Communications Union has announced plans to hold a stop work meeting on the 5th of October effecting operations of IBM GSA, the services arm of IBM.

Priya Carey, industrial officer with the CPSU told ARN that union members were upset at the company's refusal to negotiate an enterprise agreement which would cover all employees working on Telstra contracts.

Carey could not accurately predict how many staff will strike, estimating it could be "several hundred".

"We are going to get a situation where two people working side by side in the same job operate under entirely different contracts," Carey explained.

The union is concerned about the government's increasing tendency to outsource services.

"We have already seen thousands of jobs transferred from Telstra to IBM GSA in these outsourcing deals, and they are announcing plans to continue in the same direction," she said.

According to Carey, Telstra employees are being forced to transfer their positions to IBM GSA without working conditions being guaranteed.

"IBM GSA is attempting to limit our ability to collectively bargain on working conditions and wages," she said.

The planned industrial action is set to begin at noon on October 5 when members of the CPSU will hold a stop work meeting. Any further action depends on the outcome of that meeting.

Carey believes that the threatened action has the potential to interrupt IBM GSA's outsourced Telstra billing services, although she says that the union "does not wish to inconvenience the public or harm their company".

Communications Union secretary Adrian O'Connell said: "IBM GSA employees feel they have been forced to take industrial action by management, which has simply refused to listen to their requests and denied them the right to bargain collectively."

The response from IBM has been guarded. IBM GSA spokesperson Jessica Ellman told ARN she was unable to comment on discussions between employees and the company.

"We reward our employees based on merit, and we work very hard to provide competitive salaries and a flexible work place," Ellman said.

Ellman went on to say IBM supported the right of employees to choose whether or not to join particular associations, and she was adamant that IBM GSA operations would not be affected in any way by the planned industrial action.

"We will continue to operate business as usual, and continue to deliver service to our customers," she said.