Unions see IT industry in their sights

Perceiving a need for a "hub of information" for IT professionals, the Labor Council is set to launch its virtual trade union - IT Workers Alliance (ITWA) - on Wednesday October 10.

A joint initiative by the Australian Services Union (ASU), Communication, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union (CEPU), Association of Professional Engineers Scientists & Managers Australia (APESMA) and Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Peter Lewis, spokesperson for the Labor Council said the alliance is about providing a space for IT professionals to share information and ideas and to receive advice on workplace issues.

It is also being positioned as a way for unions to "formalise" their relationship and find a way into the IT industry, an industry that has traditionally steered clear of union membership.

With this fact in mind, questions have been raised over the need (and success) of such a organisation.

Greg Carvouni, CIO for the New South Wales Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said IT workers are generally self reliant, well informed and used to dealing with employers on a one-to-one basis.

"I don't believe competent people would be interested in joining an alliance of this sort. For top end professionals [and contractors] it would hold no attraction … they are on contracts and are beyond awards."

Lewis said the general notion that unions are only useful during company upheavals was "behind the times". He said the alliance would be able to give advice to contractors on provisions and advise IT professionals to ensure they are not undercut when negotiating contracts.

Carvouni said he sees a place for unions in training and development and workplace condition issues, but still doubted that people would be "interested" in joining the ITWA.

Lewis said the organisation would be setting up a steering committee representing IT workers concentrating on the issues of the day. At the moment these issues will focus around recruiters and how they operate and occupational health and safety issues.

The ITWA (http://www.itworkers-alliance.org) is targeted at programmers, network engineers and graphic designers.

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