Union goes quiet as IBM concludes worker contract

The Australian Services Union (ASU) refuses to comment on IBM deal, despite lengthy discussions and a victory for the union

IBM has announced a conclusion to negotiations over pay rises with employees at its Baulkham Hills facility in Sydney - known as "Flightdeck" - but the union responsible for the negotiations has refused to comment on the situation.

An IBM spokesperson confirmed the conclusion of negotiations through a media statement, stating “the individual interests of our employees remained central throughout the negotiation process”.

However, Sally McManus, the person responsible for negotiations at the Australian Services Union (ASU), has refused to talk to media since the conclusion of the talks, only saying that she would not comment on the issue. The silence comes despite McManus telling the Australian Financial Review reporting on Tuesday 24 August that 80 workers at the IBM facility had accepted common law contracts amounting to average pay rises of three per cent. Workers will also receive an average six months’ pay if made redundant, as well as improved sick leave, as part of the negotiations.

She also told the newspaper that the negotiations didn’t rule out the loss of jobs from the facility to China and Victoria.

The ASU’s unusual silence on the matter comes despite its attempts to publicise the negotiations, which have effectively been in motion since 2008 and involved industrial action in several instances.

IBM capitulated to demands by the ASU for negotiations in April this year, which the union claimed was a world first for the corporation. The meeting came after Fair Work Australia determined the ASU was able to negotiate collective agreements for IBM employees.

"We are proud that IBM ASU members are the first group of IBM workers in the world to get this far,” McManus said in May. “High on our list of priorities are the rights for workers who face be facing redundancy because of IBM's stated intention to move work to India and China.”

Though the agreement appears to have been reached, the ASU didn’t see all of its demands met. Later in May, IBM cut 19 full time staff, while McManus’ comments to the Australian Financial Review indicate further outsourcing to China and other parts of Australia is still possible despite the new contracts.

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