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."