The Guardian December 12, 2001


More telco sackings in pipeline

Following the sacking by Optus of 351 employees in October and 561 in 
November the Communications Division of the CEPU sought their 
reinstatement. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has now found 
the communications company failed to consult properly with unions over the 
sackings in November. Last week the Commission gave the company ten days to 
provide information to the union on the way it went about selecting 
employees for retrenchment. The Commission did not order their 
reinstatement.

The decision came as Optus announced it would be closing its Business 
Division for three weeks from December 24 and that all staff except for a 
few critical areas would be forced to take annual leave. That decision will 
effect around 1700 workers.

Management has ducked the CEPU's attempts to have discussions over the 
forced leave issue. The union is questioning Optus's right to force workers 
to take annual leave under the enterprise agreement. In particular there is 
the impact on those who do not have three weeks leave credit and others who 
have already made plans and booked holidays during next year.

Optus say the move will save them $14 million. "We fail to see how forcing 
an employee who does not have accrued leave to take leave is going to save 
Optus any money at all", said the CEPU's Mark Brownlow.

"Perhaps the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Finance Officer could 
donate some of the $10 million in options they received last year to help 
some workers save their leave entitlements."

The union is also concerned at reports of management coercion to force 
employees to fill in leave application forms. "As Optus are unwilling to 
discuss this with us we have been left with no choice but to notify the 
Industrial relations Commission of a dispute and to seek their assistance 
in resolving it", he said.

Mr Brownlow welcomed the Commission's decision on the sacked workers, 
saying that although the failure to order their reinstatement was 
disappointing, other employers in the industry should take note of the 
requirements to consult with employees and their representatives.

"Given the current state of the industry we do not believe that we have 
seen the end of the retrenchment of telecommunication workers."

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