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Friday, 28 May 2010 10:28

IBM axes union workers - UPDATED


The Australian Services Union has issued a statement claiming that IBM has told 19 of the workers at its Baulkham Hills Flight Deck centre that they are to be terminated.  IBM issued its own statement late this afternoon claiming that its ability to meet client needs would be unaffected.

The ASU and IBM have been at loggerheads for months, first over the union's attempts to represent 80 workers at the Baulkham Hills facility in NSW, then over a decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission obliging IBM to negotiate with the union in good faith.

IBM has long resisted any form of union engagement, but the introduction last year of the new industrial relations regime now makes it hard for any organisation operating in Australia to avoid having to negotiate pay and conditions for workers with representative unions. However the computer giant had agreed in recent weeks to negotiate with the ASU.

Sally McManus, NSW secretary of the ASU, however today issued a statement saying that unless IBM shows it is serious about those negotiations it will be 'adding fuel to the fire.'

Job losses at Baulkham Hills had been anticipated by the employees and the union for several months. According to McManus; "The hardest hit are operators on the Westpac contract. IBM is not offshoring or relocating these jobs, they are just abolishing them and expect those remaining to pick up all the extra work.

'Two IBM employees who work on the Westpac contract were witnesses in the case the ASU won against IBM which has forced them to bargain with the Union. ASU members believe this is part retaliation for their Union activism."

IBM's statement notes that; "IBM's ability to meet client needs is unaffected. IBM continuously transforms its business, rebalancing skills and capabilities in order to meet the changing needs of clients and our business as a whole. We are working directly with our employees to ensure their individual interests are central throughout the redeployment process. We respect the right of our employees to join unions, and we continue to engage with the ASU as required under the Fair Work Act, including the requirement to bargain in good faith."

According to McManus; 'ASU members who work on the Westpac contract believe that IBM is making a serious mistake as they have targeted some of the most experienced operators. They are highly skilled in Tandem which operates Westpac's ATM and POS network. Members believe this has the potential to have a serious negative impact on Westpac customers as ASU members keep their ATM and POS system operating.

'Should there be a fault once these workers leave, there will not be enough skilled workers to respond in timely manner to fix this fault. It is also a complicated system - workers cannot be easily trained up and it takes years to obtain the skills that the workers who are being made redundant have,' according to McManus.

She added that workers who have not been made redundant are now even more resolved to win a collective agreement as IBM managers have warned of further cuts to come.

'Workers are unimpressed with IBM's actions to date and their latest announcements have just further angered their Flight Deck workforce,' according to McManus.

The ASU has been in negotiation with IBM for a collective agreement for several weeks. McManus claims that IBM has stated they will be giving a 'lengthy' written response to the Union's claims. ASU members will meet to consider IBM's response.


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