Telstra in an AWA investigation

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The Workplace Ombudsman has begun an investigation claiming that some employees over at Telstra were made to sign Workplace Agreements last year..

The allegations first arose last Novembe, after the new Rudd government promised to abolished WorkChoices.

“When we met with employees we found that there was a considerable amount of pressure applied to some to sign up to a new AWA by Telstra’s defined date,” Len Cooper, president of the Communications Workers Union (CWU), told ZDNet Australia.

According to Cooper, many employees were given misleading information by the telco that they would not be able to engage in enterprise bargaining and that their pay will suffer if they went with a union.

Telstra has denied the allegations made by the CWU and the parent union, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU). “The claims by the CEPU are complete nonsense,” a Telstra spokesman said.

However, Cooper has said that the allegations have been occurring since 1998, when the agreements were introduced by the telco. “Up until now, the problem has been proving it,” he said. “A lot of people just weren’t willing to come forward back then.”

As many as 19,000 workers are under the AWAs, but the number of complaints relating to the CWU’s allegations are unknown. “At this stage we don’t know how many workers are going to come forward,” a spokesperson for the Workplace Ombudsman said.

Cooper believes that the company’s intention to sign as many employees that are with an union before possible industrial action takes place. However, a Telstra spokesperson said the decision to sign an AWA remains with the employee’s choice.