Unions eye high tech companies

IBM Australia has tried to "short-change" staff and has failed to satisfy concerns on entitlement payments by the set deadline, according to a union body.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) assistant secretary Stephen Jones said Big Blue also rejected the union's proposed alternatives to redundancies, including staff taking leave without pay.

"There is a dispute brewing over payment entitlements. IBM has tried to short-change staff of their redundancy entitlement," Jones said.

Last week IBM Australia confirmed that about 400 employees from IBM Australia's Global Services division are looking at redeployment options within IBM Australia.

"It has cited the reasons for the cuts as due to a downturn in the IT services outsourcing industry, whereas we believe the market is cyclical and there is a bound to be an upswing," Jones said.

In particular, Jones said the union has requested that former Telstra staff who moved over to IBM last year, of which some 50 to 60 are to be impacted by the cuts, receive a redundancy package under the terms set by Telstra. The union argues that these staff should receive a three-year pay-out, as they were entitled to when employed by Telstra. But IBM has said they will receive a two-year pay-out, which is the standard IBM entitlement package.

Also in its request to IBM, CPSU expressed its desire to have as many people redeployed as possible.

"Some 400 people have been earmarked for potential redundancies. We want half of those, at least, to be successfully redeployed," Jones said.

After its initial talks with IBM Australia on Monday June 3, the union put forward its concerns and gave IBM until the following Friday to respond.

Jones said CPSU is not satisfied with the response it received from IBM. He said the next step for CPSU is to get legal advice.

Jones added that technology companies in general are becoming increasingly unionised.

"Some 18 months ago staff could name their price for the job. But job security has changed rapidly. People work longer hours. The ability to demand a pay increase is not there."

Sally McManus, a spokesperson from Australian Services Union, said management at large technology companies discourages people from being part of a union.

"We're also concerned that it's common across the industry since September 11 to say there is a worldwide pay freeze, regardless of job situation in other countries or standard of living in Australia. Our members are challenging this pay freeze at the moment," McManus said.

ASU representatives were told to leave the Hewlett-Packard site in the Sydney suburb of Rhodes for security reasons after they actively went out to recruit new members last week, McManus said.

The union recruitment program came after HP confirmed that 600 Australian staff could lose their jobs as the company begins a staff rationalisation program following its takeover of Compaq.

A spokesperson for HP confirmed the union was at the company's office, but would make no further comment.

An IBM Australia spokesperson said she could add no further comment to previous statements which said that more than 50 employees had already found placements within IBM, and there were close to 160 further opportunities on IBM Australia's internal jobs notice board.

"Our focus is to ensure employees receive an internal placement," she said, adding that the company is speaking to its employees and union bodies.

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More about Arizona State UniversityAustralian Services UnionCommunity and Public Sector UnionCompaqCPSUHewlett-Packard AustraliaIBM AustraliaTelstra Corporation

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