According to the Australian Services Union (ASU), 46 union members voted to apply for a protected ballot with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to decide whether to take legal industrial action.
An application was heard on 1 July by the AIRC, despite IBM's objection that the ASU was ineligible to represent the interests of workers.
Last week the AIRC issued orders for a protected action ballot, which opened on Thursday and will close on 29 August.
The aim of the negotiations is to get better rights for employees including regular pay rises, pay equity, travel allowance, fair redundancy and retrenchment provisions, paid shift handover periods, fair access to leave entitlements and time off in lieu, shift penalties and the option to work from home.
An IBM spokesman said: “We are engaged in ongoing discussions with employees at the site in question to address any issues directly. IBM is widely recognised as an employer of choice, offering competitive remuneration and a very broad range of benefits for employees."
According to the ASU, IBM organised round-table meetings to listen to workers’ concerns, but as they were not ready to address the employees' complaints, union members decided to apply for the ballot.
The union began a second bargaining period to start a non-union agreement while waiting for AIRC's ballot decision.
A spokesman for ASU added it had legal advice claiming it was necessary to either choose a non-union or a union agreement, and believes IBM only agreed to discuss the non-union agreement to avoid fines for not doing so.
ASU said it decided to go ahead with the ballot to obtain a union agreement, and told IBM that it could meet to discuss that agreement.
IBM allegedly refused to meet to discuss the union agreement, according to the ASU, saying the representatives were unavailable.
IBM workers' ballot for better pay
By Jenny Eagle on Aug 18, 2008 1:26PM