IBM shifting jobs offshore, union claims


The Australian Services Union today claimed that technology giant IBM had told staff it was planning to shift an undisclosed number of Australian jobs to offshore centres in India and China.

The union, which represents a number of IBM workers, said the facilities to be hit were the controversial Baulkham Hills facility in Sydney, as well as Cumberland Forest, and a centre in Clayton in Melbourne. Union branch secretary Sally McManus said she didn’t know how many workers were to be affected by the plans or why they were going ahead.

IBM issued a terse company statement in reaction to the claims. “No announcements have been made in the area of the business to which the article refers,” the company said, referring to an earlier story on the issue.

“However, IBM is continuously rebalancing its skills and capabilities in order to meet the changing needs of clients.”

McManus said contrary to what the union believed was Australian law, IBM had not informed it of the plans. Consequently the ASU has written to IBM, demanding information.

The Baulkham Hills facility — which McManus said had about 80 staff — has been a sore point for IBM over the past several years. Big Blue fought a running battle with the union and the employees it represents at the facility throughout 2008, with an eventual reconciliation being met for better conditions for the staff in October of that year.

However, McManus today revealed action at the facility had recently started again.

“The union’s now been fighting for two and a half year for the right of workers at the Baulkham Hills datacentre to have a collective agreement,” she said. “We were fighting previously under the Work Choices laws.”

“It was pretty hard to win under that. So the workers decided that they wanted to try under the new laws, that came in in July last year.”

Consequently, McManus said, formal talks between the respective groups started again in December. But so far they had been fruitless. “IBM’s got a global policy of not negotiating with unions,” she claimed, adding Big Blue had employed top-level lawyers to frustrate the chances of any collective agreement coming to pass.

“If IBM were behaving fairly, they would have agreed to negotiate a collective agreement with their employees three years ago. It’s been three years that these employees have been denied that right.”

Image credit: Ivan Petrov, royalty free