CPSU won't rule out Telstra strike action

Minor gains have been made for Telstra staff but pay, arbitration and delegate training still issues

The union representing Telstra employees has not ruled out strike action despite a number of small gains in its ongoing enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations with the telco.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national president Louise Persse said negotiations this week with Telstra (ASX:TLS) had seen the company marginally increase its pay offer by 0.5 per cent.

“Telstra this week have made a slight amendment to their pay offer so we are taking that out to our members, but the feedback from people is that they don’t believe that is sufficient movement relative to those they were making to people [on non-union agreements] earlier in the year,” she said.

According to Persse, Telstra had previously offered a nine per cent pay increase over three years, plus a one-off ‘sign on’ bonus of two per cent. The current offer is an increased sign-on bonus of 2.5 per cent.

In comparison, Telstra employees on non-union agreements earlier this year were offered 12.5 per cent increases over three years starting from 1 October 2008, according to Persse.

“Certainly our members are comparing what they have been offered now to that... so I would expect similar result,” she said.

No progress has been made on getting Telstra to participate in the Fair Work Australia (FWA) conciliation process for future disputes. Negotiations are also continuing on the union’s position that conditions be harmonised between long-standing staff on Enterprise Agreements and new starters, and those on ex-Australian Workplace Agreements.

“There has been a little bit of movement but it is very slow,” Persse said, adding no movement has been recorded on the union's call for an increase in Telstra union delegates and that delegates have access to yearly paid union training.

Persse said that the union had not ruled out striking if an agreement between it and Telstra could not be met, but said that a date had not been set for action.

“It’s up to our members on what they think about [striking] and whether they are prepared to do that, so we will see,” Persse said.

According to the CPSU, more than 90 per cent of members attedning national meetings on the Telstra negotiations endorsed a motion calling on management to improve its enterprise bargaining agreement offer and committed to take industrial action in support of a better deal.

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