IBM faces more strikes at Baulkham Hills


update IBM is facing another round of industrial action at its controversial Baulkham Hills facility in Sydney, with unionised staff at the centre voting overwhelmingly to pursue an “indefinite” strike if their demands are not met by Big Blue.

The technology giant in late May made 19 staff at the facility redundant, with their jobs to go offshore, after the Australian Services Union won the right to negotiate with IBM on a collective agreement for staff.

The Baulkham Hills facility — which has 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, the ASU revealed in February action at the facility had recently started again.

In a statement issued today, ASU branch secretary Sally McManus said the Australian Electoral Commission had conducted a vote for the ASU among staff at the facility. There are about 80 staff in total in the Baulkham Hills centre, but the ballot appeared to show that some 58 were eligible to vote. Only 50 returned their voting forms.

Of those 50, an overwhelming majority supported union action on a range of fronts — with numbers ranging from 36 out of 50 to 47 out of 50 supporting differing types of industrial action in response to a number of questions.

The forms of industrial action ranged from an unlimited ban on overtime, through to four hour and rolling work stoppages, to 24, 48, 72 hour or even indefinite work stoppages and even a ban on training other workers.

“There was overwhelming support for all the options put to the workers, including an indefinite strike,” said McManus. “The ASU is currently still in negotiations with IBM and we will hope not to have to resort to strike action. However, now this ballot has been declared, it is now legally open to ASU members to take strike action should they wish.”

The union secretary said the workers would not take the option of strike action unless it formed a view that IBM was not genuine about reaching an agreement. “ASU members will meet in the coming weeks to make an assessment on the progress of negotiations,” she said.

“IBM continues to engage with the ASU as required under the Fair Work Act and bargain in good faith. The individual interests of our employees remain central throughout this process,” said IBM in a company statement.

Image credit: Patrick H, Creative Commons