The AGM of our Branch will be held on Saturday 8 December 2018 at 9.30am at Suite 1B, Level 1, 57-59 Renwick St, Leichhardt.

The agenda includes:

  • Presentation of Audit and Financial Report
  • Secretary's Report
  • Appointment of a Auditor
  • Appointment of a Returning Officer
  • Honoraria
  • General Business.


    Secretary's Report to T&S NSW/ACT Branch 2018 AGM

    This year's AGM report is a composite of the inputs from the three Secretaries of the NSW T&S Branch for 2018. For the bulk of the past 12 months elected Secretary, Alex Jansen, has led the branch while Assistant Secretary, Lee Walkington, stood in as Acting Secretary for Alex during his personal leave at the beginning of 2018 and again after Alex resigned the post for personal reasons on August 31, 2018. At the November 14 Special BCOM meeting Dan Dwyer was elected to take over the Secretary's role up to the next election due in mid 2019. Lee has resumed his elected role as Branch Assistant Secretary as of November 15.


    It is fair to say the year since our last AGM in July 2017 has been characterised by significant changes in our Branch and in our industry. Over the past year there has been a steady downturn in union membership mostly because many technical jobs have been abolished or outsourced by both Telstra and Optus. In addition we have been dealing with an increasingly ineffective and fractious Communications Division leadership that has hindered rather than helped growth in all branches. We also faced a factional and unprincipled campaign of membership poaching by another branch in our CEPU federation, a branch that by rights should be seeking to unite with us against the common enemy, the employer rather than try to destroy us. As a result of this combination of factors our membership has declined over the past year and the outlook for the year ahead remains uncertain and our long-term viability is difficult to predict.

    There were some positives however. Extensive cost cutting and a reduced outlay on salaries over 2017-2018 saw the Branch stabilise its financial position for the moment and there is a strong chance of showing a small surplus at the end of this financial year, the first in some time. We now have a new Secretary and a stable platform to operate from going into 2019. However the continuing decline in numbers will erode this achievement unless a concerted recruitment drive is undertaken to first halt the downturn and then grow back the numbers we need to remain viable. There are gains to be made but we have to plan to achieve these, not just trust if we keep functioning as we do that growth will come. It won't!

    The financial report presented today gives a sobering view of where we are at as a Branch. We do have a small asset cushion for the moment but our future is finite unless we address a number of issues that I will outline here.

    Branch recruitment:

    Recruitment needs to be our number one priority and all active members need to be involved in turning this around. We know from experience that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. BCOM members must actively engage in making recruitment a priority campaign if we are to survive and thrive. Do we have the right literature? Are we targeting the right areas? Do we have the right systems? Can we afford a part time recruiter for specific targets? How do we make recruitment a proper campaign, not just something reported on once a month in the membership loss and gain column? The improvement in our finances should allow us to explore the possibility of recruiting a part-time industrial officer to target key areas for new membership. There will be some proposals coming on this very soon and your input is sought and welcomed.

    Engagement with other workers:

    It is fair to say that as a Branch we have tended to become somewhat isolated from the rest of the labour movement over a long period of time and have slowly withdrawn into ourselves. We disengaged from Unions NSW and let our affiliation drop from the peak unions in Wollongong and Newcastle. This was largely to save money and because we felt we had little influence due to a declining membership base but maybe we should revisit these decisions and decide on a case-by-case basis if the value of maintaining contact with fellow unionists in the broader union movement is worth the financial cost of doing so? This year for the first time in a few years we marched as the CWU T&S Branch together with the RMA in the Sydney May Day rather than just participate as individuals. The ACTU, which the branch is affiliated with via our Comms Division, is waging a campaign on Union Rights that we should promote and encourage our members to be an active part of. Next year might well coincide with the election of a federal Labor government and we should be seen to be involved in this not isolated from it. I am not suggesting the branch should launch itself into outright campaigning for Labor candidates but we cannot be absent from the fight to bring about positive change either.

    Re-organisation of telco:

    For some time our Branch has recognised the need to work more closely with our Victorian T&S counterparts. Like us they have suffered membership loss from the downsizing of Telstra and from the absence of an effective national leadership team, particularly in the telco area. While nominally there is still a T&S rep on the Telstra EBA bargaining team and Alex was part of the Optus EPA bargaining team, the majority of the reps appointed in these key areas were Postal officials rather than experienced telco industry representatives. Different assessments between ourselves and the Divisional Office around key issues in Telstra such as LSL, Performance plans, ARL and the Telstra Banding issue debacle left us with little option but to look for ways run joint campaigns with our Victorian T&S telco comrades and put out joint Bulletins that better reflected the needs of telco members. We have now reached the view that we must continue to work towards common goals with the Vic T&S Branch as a first step towards building a genuine telco presence in the industrial landscape. Regular joint meetings and leadership hook-ups will now become the norm. Eventually we may seek to formalise these arrangements with rule changes and common membership lists.

    Part of this discussion about reorganisation though has to be about the renewal of the current leadership team with younger members now needing to step up to take the destiny of the branch into their own hands. It is in their long term interest to do this and do it sooner rather than at a later stage when it will be forced upon the branch.

    Central Branch - what is that about?:

    During the last part of this year the NSW T&S Branch was invited, albeit it seems as an afterthought to other plans, to be part of a "Central Branch initiative". This was a plan put together by the current Communications Division President and P&T NSW Secretary, Shane Murphy to join up the P&T NSW, Qld and SA branches into a single unit. (Why the WA branch wants to remain outside this is unclear.) An amended proposal was given to our T&S NSW branch and we circulated it to our BCOM who carefully deliberated on it before deciding to decline the offer for several reasons.

    Primarily our BCOM felt the changes did not align with the needs of our Telco members whose interests we are elected to represent. Further, it was felt the creation of a "Central Branch" was designed as a factional move to block any future attempts to reform the Comms Division along democratic lines.

    There was no arguing that our Branch along with the SA and Qld Branches (and WA branch for that matter) all have significant financial and membership difficulties, however the thrust of the offer would have reduced representation from our telco membership base from seven Branch Councillors and three elected officials to a single person plus one executive member. Given the majority of reps of "Central Branch" were always going to be from the Postal side this rejig would not meet the representational needs of our members. It was also noted that the proposal which will significantly alter the way the Comms Division works has even now never been placed before any elected body of the union for discussion let alone for a vote. It had factional realignment written all over it from the start and seems to be a part of the civil war currently taking place inside the P&T NSW Branch for overall control of the faction following the resignation in disgrace of their long term Secretary Jim Metcher back in late 2017.

    Industrial campaigns:

    During the course of the year the Branch took part in numerous actions both large and small around ongoing industrial issues that can be best summarised on a sector-by-sector basis.

    Telstra: This year was always going to be significant for the union with the Telstra EBA due for renegotiation in early 2018. However the appointment of only one rep from the T&S side and the haphazard nature of the union negotiations could only lead to the present situation whereby Telstra has largely got their way in most areas. Telstra publicly announced its plan to outsource thousands of jobs and this should have been the basis of a concerted union campaign. While the unions collectively did manage to lead a successful No vote campaign around the EBA, the pay rise offered was well below everyone's expectations and the transfer of business clause, since partly shelved, remains a sore point as Telstra is still able by law to transfer workers to another business effectively robbing workers of their previously hard won entitlements that will not necessarily be honoured by any new enterprise. The Branch held joint campaign positions with T&S Vic branch on Telstra's changes to Long Service policy and several other matters such as the Promise App and Banding. It is unclear where this will all end as Telstra is still on a massive job cutting exercise and has shown no regard for the needs of its long suffering staff or for its customers and has now launched an accelerated slash and burn attack on staff levels possibly as a pre-emptive strike against any future Labor Federal government deciding to investigate Telstra's activities

    Optus: Like Telstra Optus started the year with a goal of outsourcing its Network and Operations staff roles to another provider, Nokia. The members were savvy to the role Nokia took to an earlier outsourcing to them by Alcatel and the cancellation of the conditions of service that those workers were promised Nokia would accept as their own. Alex was instrumental in looking after the individual interests of several who wanted a redundancy rather than an uncertain future at Nokia. The Satellite techs likewise were under attack in 2018 with their functions amalgamated with Optus Broadcast techs along with roster changes and all this required some attention by the Branch. Our BCOM rep at Optus was a casualty of the outsourcing moves and we are yet to find someone to replace him on our committee of management.

    Australia Post: The AP techs within the mail and parcel centres are facing continual change with some roles now being done by Operator staff in an ongoing campaign to erode their long-standing workplace conditions. Changes to rosters, roles, staffing levels, qualifications and hours of duty have all been under attack and P&T have not helped the fight by relentlessly targeting our members to switch unions, so far with little effect although it does demoralise those fighting to maintain their hard won conditions.

    Other campaigns: In the last couple of months of 2018 the Broadcast Australia (BAI) Enterprise Agreement was completed and promptly three of our BA techs in Orange were summarily stood down for no obvious reason and later dismissed. We currently have an unfair dismissal claim on this being heard before the Fair Work Commission but the strong impression we have is that BAI are looking to outsource its field operations to contractors, a move that we will oppose. In November our Victorian comrades launched a court case against sham contracting in the telecommunications industry with Tandem (ISGM) the main target. A win in this area would significantly alter the way these workers are employed in the telco industry and would flow on to other industries. Action around OH&S and particularly around Asbestos exposure remains an important issue that the branch engaged in during 2018. Assistant Secretary, Lee Walkington, took part in an ACTU led delegation in January to a Regional Conference on Asbestos held in Jakarta and in November attended the annual ASEA (Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency) two day conference held in Sydney. Reports on these events are available. The branch Asbestos Register form was reworked in conjunction with Taylor Scott but has yet to be relaunched to our membership and past members too. Anyone who has been a worker in the industry is encouraged for their own benefit and that of their family to sign up now rather than let the matter drift too long.

    In conclusion:

    The year ahead looks to be another difficult one but not significantly more so than in recent times. The change of leadership this year has proceeded reasonably smoothly, Branch finances have stabilised for the moment and the Branch has a functioning website and newsletter so that regular contact with members has resumed after being patchy for a few months. Collaboration with others, principally the T&S Branch (Vic) will continue to give telco members some direction and unity of purpose to their struggles in 2019. Another positive is the maturity and experience of our BCOM members, a positive feature not matched by many if any other Branch in the CEPU and something that will continue to stand this Branch in good stead. Some targeted union training should also be considered a priority in the first months of next year.

    Next year promises to be a busy one with both Telstra and Optus continuing to downsize at a quickening pace. Both seem more than willing to improve their share price at the expense of their customer service reputations and employee satisfaction and both continue to outsource key roles to external "partners". These new employment entities generally operate under worse employment models free from the hard won conditions forged out of past union campaigns. The chance for real membership growth is still out there though but it will take some determined work to achieve it. The likely election of a Shorten Labor government next year might well bring some confidence back to workers and lead to an increase in the participation of new forces in ACTU and union led campaigns. We should be ready to actively participate in these struggles. As the saying goes: If you don't fight you lose!

    Lee Walkington: Asst. Secretary, 7th Dec. 2018 (with input from Alex Jansen and Dan Dwyer)

  • Home
    Database Home