1. CEPU was created by an amalgamation of several unions (Telecom, Postal, Electrical and Plumbing Unions) in 1992.
2. Except for a short period when Postal & Telscom unions amalgamated from 1990, Technical staff were represented by ATEA.
3. Today the former ATEA is the Telecommunications and Services Branch of CEPU.

Through the 1970s the ATEA was transformed from basically a public servants association and somewhat of a tame-cat union officials club, into an effective militant industrial union.

New leaderships were elected from the rank and file membership in Queensland and Victoria, to join the new leadership elected in the late 60s in NSW, to drive the changes.

The membership were sick of the top down, take it or leave it union officials and their cosy relationship with the Public Service Management of the day and they made wholesale changes.

Just think of some of the events, in many cases, momentous events that followed.

There were at least 5 major national industrial campaigns that I can remember, waged throughout the 1970s - absolutely unheard of before in telecommunications.


* We were one of the first group of what was then known as manipulative workers (distinguished from clerical/admin workers) in the world to win hours of duty that were less than 40. In the campaign ending in 1974 we won the 36% hour week, 9 day fortnight.

* In 1976 there was a major national industrial dispute over work organisation, particularly where it affected telephone exchange maintenance and its impact on promotional prospects, grading, technical skills and customer service. The union virtually won a veto power over Management work organisation changes. This was basically unheard of at that time.

* In 1977 there was a major national industrial dispute over the work organisation for new exchange switching technology, which impacted on skills, training, jobs, promotional prospects and pay. This dispute as major as it was, turned out to be a preliminary to a huge national industrial dispute the following year, in 1978.

* The 1978 national industrial dispute (widely known as the technology dispute) over the introduction of new computer technology was a path breaking dispute over whether workers have a right to help shape the issues of how many jobs, what type of training, what promotional prospects there would be, how jobs are graded and how service is delivered.

In a word, how the industry is organised and under what conditions new technology would be introduced.

* In 1979 we had a massive dispute with the Fraser Government over wages and wage fixation. We along with some other major unions (Transport and Metals) broke the very restrictive wage fixing guidelines of the Fraser Government and won major increases for our members. We were the first union to take on the restrictive guidelines and win.

The union dared to fight the boss and Federal Government over the introduction of new technology, over shorter hours, over how the industry should be organised, over how workers should be trained and how they should move through a progressive staff structure based on skills and reward, issues that up until that time had been considered to be the boss's prerogative and not the business of workers and their unions.

The union through those campaigns, effectively protected thousand's of jobs, boosted the classifications and grading of thousands of workers, lifted the quality of training and the recognition of the training and skills, protected customer service standards and won shorter hours. We won an award clause, which was very much a first anywhere in the world, which prevented any redundancies due to new technology introduction, for 10 years at least.

As well as the major campaigns mentioned above more localised industrial struggles were waged successfully to win take home vehicles, proper recall telephone provision, the Melbourne Cup and Show Day public holidays for country members, improved travelling allowance and conditions, trade union training rights and many others.

During this period the union was restructured to build an extensive shop steward and sub branch network, policy making general meetings of members, widespread quality trade union training and further widespread membership involvement in union affairs.

* In 1981 the CEPU waged a major national industrial campaign, again over members' wages, against the Fraser Government, and the union again won major increases in wages.

I must point out here that a major, national industrial campaign in Telecommunications in those days meant massive disruption, often a collapse in communications in and out of Australia and between states.

The last half of the 1980s, as the national union movement leadership and the Hawke Government implemented the Accord, were relatively peaceful, in terms of major national industrial disputes, however some very significant developments took place in that period.

The ATEA played a very significant role in the debate, studies and development regarding how the introduction of new technology would be dealt with in industry, following on from our 1970s disputes on the issue.

The issues of timely and proper consultation before its introduction, the need for employer efforts to find alternative work in place of redundancy, the issues of retraining and proper recognition of skills and experience - these issues and others are still built into some of our agreements and the agreements of other unions for that matter.

The union amalgamation between the Operators' union (ATP0A) and the Techs union (ATEA) took place in the late 1980s. This was a genuine attempt to unite Telecommunications workers for the battles ahead and many battles there were.

Towards the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s we fought campaigns to win a significant Redundancy Agreement, which still remains, despite the ravages of our deteriorating industrial and political situation, one of the best in the land.

The size of the payout, the constraints on immediate dismissal, the protective processes remain important conditions for our members.

Then came the national job cuts industrial dispute in the early 90s. Another victory which gave us some control over contracting out and Management initiated reorganisation, some influence over the extent or otherwise of so-called 'core business' and some early involvement in Management restructuring of the industry.

Right throughout that whole period (1970s till today) the CEPU has won regular, reasonable wage increases for members keeping them well ahead of inflation and having many of them upgraded in the process of negotiating new staff structures for the work as Telecommunications technology changed.

Of course there were the follow-on union amalgamations between the ATEA/ATPOA and the APTU to form the Communications Workers Union and then between the CWU and Electrical and Plumbing Union to form the CEPU. Again whilst there are many negative aspects and outcomes in regard to these bigger amalgamations there was a genuine hope that there would be a greater unity and effectiveness for communications workers in both theprivate and public sectors. We shouldn't give up on the objective of making this a reality one day.

We must not forget also that over the period from the late 1970s until today, heading for 25 years, the CEPU has been one of the key organisations absolutely in the forefront of defending Government owned telecommunications and keeping Telstra in public hands.

The value of keeping it in public hands for the Australian community is immeasurable, not to mention the protection of our members' conditions, wages and rights. Public ownership has enabled us to protect these more effectively. The CEPU is largely responsible for the continuing public ownership due to the work it has done and is doing in research, submissions, community links, public campaigning and lobbying for nearly 25 years.

* In 1998 the CEPU waged another National Industrial campaign against Telstra and the

Federal Government to win a wage increase for Telstra workers. Hundreds of Technical workers were stood down and the union faced major difficulties from the Workplace Relations Act and Telstra 's Howard Government driven Management, however we again won a 10.5% increase over two years.

Members today, whether they lived through that era or not, are still enjoying the benefits of the struggle and successes of that period - regular wage increases better than inflation, the redundancy agreement safety net, shorter hours and the Rostered Day Off, take home vehicles, the right to consultation and many, many more.

This potted history of the CEPU (and particularly, almost exclusively the T&S section of the CEPU), demonstrates the enormous value of militant, rank and file based unionism to members and the union/labour movement in general.

Former Branch Secretary