The Guardian December 5, 2001


Telstra: Slash and burn

Telstra's decision to slash its network construction workforce has been 
condemned by the Communications Division of the CEPU. Last week the company 
announced that between 800 and 1000 staff would be cut from Network Design 
and Construction (NDC). The union said that jobs lost as a result would be 
closer to 1300 and described the move as another example of short-term 
thinking by the company.

Last month Telstra staff held a rally in Sydney as part of a campaign to 
highlight job losses and reduced job security. Between June 1996 and June 
2001 Telstra shed 31,648 full-time jobs i.e. 41 per cent of the full-time 
workforce. This year alone the company has cut more than 6000 staff.

Management unsuccessfully tried to sell off NDC earlier this year. 
"Telstra's aim is to make NDC more marketable by slashing staff numbers", 
said Communications Division President, Colin Cooper. "It still wants to 
sell the company [NDC] to boost its own share price."

Mr Cooper dismissed Telstra's claims that the job cuts were dictated by the 
current slump in the telecommunications industry. "We don't dispute there 
is a downturn. But we do dispute the suggestion that there is no work for 
these employees. There is in fact plenty to be done on the national network 
to get it up to scratch, as regional and rural customers can testify."

The union is concerned that the sell-off will also result in a loss of 
expertise in NDC, which performs a crucial role in the building of networks 
to support the company's Universal Service Obligation.

Prior to the federal election the Howard Government promised not to 
privatise any more of Telstra's services until services in rural areas were 
improved, a promise the union described as an election sham because the 
Government knew that privatisation was "on the nose" with voters.

Job cuts are also planned from Telstra's complaint management teams, which 
will weaken the company's ability to deal with recurring faults.

Management is also determined to sell Telstra's PABX Maintenance system, 
which the union describes as "privatisation by stealth". In March this year 
the company announced a record $2.6 billion profit, an outcome that 
demonstrated Telstra was not being held back by majority government 
ownership.

Colin Cooper warned that the privatisation of NDC would lead to a large 
number of highly trained, specialised staff being lost entirely from the 
industry. "Many will go for good. And then you will be faced with the 
highly expensive task of training up a new generation of skilled workers  
something the industry has shown itself highly reluctant to do to date.

"What we are seeing in Telstra's job shedding program is waste on a massive 
scale to satisfy the short-term demands of the stock market. In the longer 
term it will be the industry and its customers who will pay the price."

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