Telstra Purple EBA – foreshadowing the downgrading of our terms and conditions in all the Telstra areas.
In the last week, our Union’s Divisional Executive, despite strident opposition from 3 of the 7 Communications Div Branches (our Victorian T&S Branch, the Victorian P&T, and the NSW T&S branches) supported an application to Fair Work Commission, as part of the Telstra Purple EBA certification process, to be bound by the Telstra Purple EBA. This EBA had been negotiated by the Asst Div Secretary (Telco), and the Div Office legal officer. At no stage had officials of those 3 Branches been aware of any negotiations with Telstra Purple management. Even at this late stage, the explanations of the circumstances of this negotiation are scant.
Telstra Purple is, according to a number of industry publications (eg Computerworld – see below), made up of the Telstra Enterprise Business Unit (ie a business unit of Telstra in the same way as the other Telstra business units are arranged), combined with a number of Telstra acquisitions, including Readify, Kloud, O2 Networks, MSC mobility, VM Tech, Bridgepoint, iVision, NSC and the British based Company 85. When it was actually set up as a Pty Ltd is unknown (ie the union was never consulted about it) but according to the ASIC web site, Telstra Purple was incorporated in June, 2001 and was announced as an operating entity in early September, 2019. The company operates in the IT Managed services, solutions and products area.
Telstra consolidates IT services business as ‘Telstra Purple’
Rohan Pearce Editor, Computerworld 4 Sep 2019
Telstra Enterprise has consolidated its professional and technical services businesses, largely built through a string of acquisitions, into a single brand dubbed ‘Telstra Purple’.
The telco said that Telstra Purple comprises more than 1500 people, who between them work on more than 8000 projects a year. Telstra Purple is Australia’s largest technology services business, the company claimed.
The announcement was made at the telco’s enterprise conference, Telstra Vantage.
“It’s something that our customers have been asking for a while,” said Michael Ebeid, the head of Telstra Enterprise.
“We’ve launched the brand today and so we will go to our customers with Telstra Purple as that professional services IT brand,” he told Computerworld.
“We’ll be able to package that up in terms of the different elements – whether it be the work that we do today with, say, VMtech, or Kloud and Readify etc. — and we’ll be able to provide all those solutions together.”
“So often today when we work with our corporate customers, we will use different parts of many of those acquisitions to bring together a holistic solution,” he said. “This way it’s just dealing with one company, one brand, which will be a little bit easier for our customers.”
He told Computerworld that Telstra didn’t plan to eliminate any roles as part of the consolidation.
“We’re actually growing that part of the business,” Ebeid said. “It’s a people business,” he added. “Part of this announcement and bringing those brands together is absolutely not about any redundancies or role reductions – that is a part of the business we’re actually growing because there’s a big demand.”
Executive director, global services, Christopher Smith will lead Telstra Purple, the company said.
“Telstra Purple helps us take a clear and integrated value proposition to our customers, alongside our
traditional products and services, as a single branded entity,” Smith said in a statement.
“Our approach to Telstra Purple has been deeply collaborative, a reflection of what we stand for and how we engage with our customers – even our name came from one of our team.”
* The author’s travel and accommodation for Telstra Vantage were provided by Telstra.
The Telstra EBA applied for staff working in the Enterprise Business Unit, and the other non EBA acquisitions provided a “trojan horse” of grey areas of industrial law, under the Telstra Group.
This strategy was clearly on the minds of the Telstra EBA negotiators, who pursued an agenda of being able to more easily set up the transfer of Telstra staff to subsidiaries or other Pty Ltds. What we now have happening is what we were foreseeing at the time was dangerous for terms and conditions of Telstra employees, particularly focussed on the infamous and hotly debated cl 45 arrangements relating to the ability to forcibly redeploy redundant Telstra staff to “move to another entity in the Telstra group, or as part of a transfer of business” (cl 45.1)
So what’s in the Telstra Purple Pty Ltd EBA?
Nothing much more than the National Employment Standards (NES)!! Here are some (but not all) of the glaring reductions in terms and conditions:
Underpinned by some obscure awards (Clerks, Professional Employees and Commercial sales), not the Telco industry Award, or the Telstra Modern Award. This is crucial for the application of the BOOT (Better Off Overall Test), which compares the EBA to the minimums provided by the awards or the NES:
- 38 Hr week (NES minimum, not 36.75 as per Telstra)
- Minimum rates of pay, actual pay determined by the boss
- 2% a year “pay pool” increase, so no guaranteed individual pay rise aside from a 1% “sign on” increase in January 2021.
- 3 Levels only, and very basic summarised job descriptors for work at that level
- 16 weeks redundancy (not the 40 week s as per the Telstra Award, or the 80 plus 4 weeks of the Telstra EBA) dropping back to 12 weeks after 10 years (no prizes for guessing where this precedent will be used). These are the NES numbers.
- Medical certificate for sick leave (if asked by the boss) to be provided, no mention of Stat dec
- NES Annual Leave (4 weeks)
- RDO’s are not defined, simply “Flexibility agreements”
- TOIL (Time Off In Lieu) at the “hour for hour” basis, for Public Holidays
- No “On Call” or “emergency duty” allowances
- “Professional Hours” – whatever that means
- State based Long Service Leave amounts (in Victoria 2 months after 10 years, rather than 3 months after 10 years for Telstra
- 4 weeks’ notice to take excess annual leave in excess of 8 weeks
- No Higher Duties allowance payable if the current paid wage is higher than the minimum of the higher level wage.
So where does it leave the Telstra staff who are slated for movement to a Telstra Pty Ltd (eg InfraCo, TowerCo, etc)?
In concise terms, vulnerable. Telstra continues to dismember itself, and reduce staff numbers in the main entity, and part of this is the “no alternative” movement of staff to these Pty Ltds, under the threat of losing your redundancy payment if you decide not to go across.
This Telstra Purple EBA clearly reinforces the warning that was given when the Telstra EBA was being debated. If we keep on providing minimal resistance to these initiatives, we are heading to a “free for all” in industrial relations that the conservative government (and their mates in various industry groups – BCA, ACCI, etc) are (and have been for decades) pushing. Genuine committed Union officials should oppose all these, to ensure members rights are not diminished, and officials must not jump into bed with these bosses. We should not be part of deals that are reminiscent of the “yellow union” (bosses union) arrangements, which are prevalent in many parts of Asia. That warning should be heeded, and any attempt to roll a second rate agreement into these areas (including by stealth) must be resisted by all staff confronted by these bad deals, including Union officials who endorse these arrangements.
Strength in numbers is the main way we can push back, but senior union officials need to call out these deals for what they are – totally second rate, and an obvious danger to employee terms and conditions across our Industry. It’s time to organise, and stick together.