Updated: Telstra workers vote on 2 September for pay rise

Telstra (ASX:TLS) employees will go to the polls on 2 September to decide on proposed enterprise-wide pay rises for the first time since the telco’s previous agreement expired in 2008.

Employees will accept or reject a pay rise offer of eight per cent delivered equally in four instalments over two years. If accepted, the first payment will be backdated to 1 July this year, with subsequent payments on 1 October, 1 July 2011 and 1 October 2011. Those deemed eligible will also receive between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent on top of the pay rises based on performance.

The ballot is expected to last until 8 September and will be conducted over email, with a decision to be announced to employees and unions on 10 September.

A Telstra spokesperson confirmed the ballot.

"We are pleased to be at a point where we have finalised good faith negotiations and we are now moving to a vote so our eligible employees can decide on the proposed two-year agreement," the spokesperson told Computerworld Australia.

"The agreement also preserves industry-leading terms and conditions our employees enjoy such as hours of work, carer's and maternity leave and redundancy pay, and introduces new benefits such as salary packaging."

However, the main body representing Telstra workers, the Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union (CEPU), does not believe its initial demands for pay rises will be met and will not recommend the proposal to its members.

CEPU and Telstra have been deadlocked in negotiations over an enterprise agreement since the previous agreement expired. The union, which represents some 8000 Telstra employees, initially rejected the telco’s payrise offer with a 54.5 per cent vote against the proposal in a member poll.

The union will allow the telco to forge ahead with an internal ballot of all unionised and non-unionised members for the offer, and has agreed not to initiate a “vote no” campaign around the poll.

CEPU continues to insist its members under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) are unfairly discriminated against in Telstra payrise offers, leading to a 2.5 per cent pay gap between unionised and non-unionised members. It has continued to offer a proposal that would see unionised members offered an extra half a per cent rise for each of the three initial payments, and an extra per cent rise for the final instalment on 1 October 2011.

John Ellery, assistant secretary of CEPU’s Victorian branch, said the union poll was indicative of how the majority of unionised members in Telstra felt about the proposal, but that it was too close to call.

“The certification ballot will obviously go wider than our union membership, it includes all eligible employees whether they’re union members or not. But certainly our union ballot, like anything when you’ve got a vote that’s fairly close, you’ve got to be fairly mindful how you deal with it,” he told Computerworld Australia.

While the national breakdown of the union poll showed a slight majority against the proposal, a state breakdown of the vote showed unionised Telstra members aren’t so united in their refusal. CEPU members in Victoria and Western Australia voted no, for example, while those in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia voted yes.

A smaller proportion of Telstra employees represented by The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists Managers, Australia (APESMA) and Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) both voted in favour of the payrises without CEPU’s proposed additional rises.

“Our members were very solid in rejecting it but whether that’s carried into the non-members and into other states that originally supported it even in our ballots, I don’t know,” Ellery said.

“I guess that’s really the great unknown at the moment.”

Article updated with comments from Telstra and clarified dates of ballot.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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