The Telstra Enterprise Agreement has now been certified and will take effect from 12 November.
Certification of the new Telstra Enterprise Agreement (TEA) was delayed while the Fair Work Commission (FWC) considered claims that certain employees should not have been allowed to vote on it. While the delay did not affect the payment of wage rises in Telstra, other provisions, including changes to redundancy processes have been on hold since the agreement was voted on.
Over 20,000 employees out of a potential 28,000 participated in the EA ballot, with a clear majority (just under 60%) voting to accept the agreement.
But at a FWC hearing on Thursday 29 October, former CWU officials argued that the agreement should not be certified, primarily because Telstra employees on expired individual contracts (AWAs and ITEAs) had been allowed to vote in the EA ballot.
It was argued that this was unfair because these employees would not (necessarily) be directly affected by the provisions of the agreement.
Although the CWU urged members to vote NO in the EA ballot, it did not support this position.
This was partly because the union believed that, for better or worse, the law was clear on this question and that these employees were entitled to vote. Indeed no objection to their doing so had been raised by anyone, including the former officials, during the course of bargaining.
But it was also because those on expired AWAs and ITEAs – some of them CWU members – clearly do have a legitimate interest in the content of the agreement since they are free to come onto it at any time.
Excluding these employees from coverage – and hence voting – would, on the other hand, effectively lock them into their current individual contracts indefinitely. This would be quite contrary to the CWU’s long-held position of encouraging AWA/ITEA based employees to come onto the EA.
It is also important to note that, under this new agreement, employees coming off an AWA or ITEA and onto the EA can still choose Workstream conditions (where this option applied to them under the 2010-15 EA).
All AWA/ITEA employees should now seriously consider this option before this window closes altogether.