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Unions welcome Telstra decision to negotiate -

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Unions welcome Telstra decision to negotiate

Reporter: David Mark

PETER CAVE: Australia's peak union body has welcomed Telstra's decision to restart collective
bargaining negotiations with its workers.

It's a major shift for Australia's biggest telco, which abandoned negotiations with unions last
year and had been intent on moving workers onto individual contracts.

Telstra's new CEO, David Thodey, has written to staff saying the company intends to work on a new
Enterprise Agreement from July.

The ACTU says that Telstra has abandoned what he calls a "confrontational strategy" adopted by the
company's former boss, Sol Trujillo.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: The secretary of the ACTU, Jeff Lawrence, thinks there's been a paradigm shift in the
industrial relations policies of one of Australia's biggest companies, Telstra.

JEFF LAWRENCE: I think it's an important signal. You've got a company like Telstra who of course
are a major company, they have got a very high public profile, but they've also been a company
that's been at the leadership of the implementation of WorkChoices and the push of Australian
Workplace Agreements (AWA) and they have now recognised that the world has changed.

DAVID MARK: Collective Agreements are back.

Telstra's new CEO David Thodey wrote to staff yesterday to tell them the era of Australian
Workplace Agreements - the individual contracts introduced by the previous government - were over.

(Extract from letter from David Thodey to staff)

DAVID THODEY (voiceover): We are pleased to announce that we are committing to entering good faith
bargaining with eligible employees who are on an Enterprise Agreement and expired Australian
Workplace Agreements.

We will work to negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement which is fair and rewards excellent
performance.

(End of extract)

DAVID MARK: AWAs were championed by Telstra - around 12,000 of its 31,000 staff were on the
individual agreements.

Jeff Lawrence:

JEFF LAWRENCE: Telstra has established through its use of AWAs quite a divisive structure of
employment practices across the company. Different arrangements apply in different areas and so the
test is really going to be whether there can be some workable transition to a new, fairer, more
open system.

DAVID MARK: Jeff Lawrence says negotiations between unions and Telstra's leadership have been
nonexistent since they broke down last August:

JEFF LAWRENCE: The strategy that was adopted under Sol Trujillo and Don McGauchie of confrontation
with unions hasn't worked. Certainly Telstra's industrial relations practices have been out of sync
really with the real world for a long time.

During the course of last year and the year before, they continued to roll AWAs. It's also a
recognition I think that the Fair Work Act means that something has changed in the Australian
workplace.

DAVID MARK: In his memo, Telstra's David Thodey also acknowledges the new industrial relations
landscape.

The laws come into place on the first of July and David Thodey says the company will consider them
before beginning negotiations with its staff.

(Extract from letter from David Thodey to staff)

DAVID THODEY (voiceover): We will bargain in good faith and treat our employees and their
bargaining representatives with respect. Our aim is to reach an agreement that is equitable for
both Telstra and our employees.

We will also consult with Telstra unions ahead of the formal bargaining process.

(End of extract)

DAVID MARK: The new laws do allow workers on AWAs to continue with an individual contract, but Jeff
Lawrence wants to see all of Telstra's workers back on a Collective Agreement.

JEFF LAWRENCE: That is our preference. We believe that collective bargaining is in the interests of
employees. It is in the interests of productivity. It is in the interests of equity.

DAVID MARK: And if a worker wants to stay on their individual agreement?

JEFF LAWRENCE: Well, we would have to see where we get to there. I think really, the important
question is genuine choice and of course what happened under the previous system is that there
wasn't genuine choice.

DAVID MARK: Jeff Lawrence says the Telstra memo will act as a precedent to other companies that
have moved workers onto AWAs.

Telstra and its workers will begin negotiating a new Collective Agreement in July.

PETER CAVE: David Mark reporting.