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Union accuses Telstra of contracting out slashed jobs

Union accuses Telstra of contracting out slashed jobs

Claims cuts are coming too evenly to be a reaction to NBN rollout

The union representing Telstra workers impacted by the company's recent 1400 job cuts has accused the country’s largest telco of employing contractors to fill the recently axed roles.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said it is seeking assurances from the telco that it won’t outsource the work to contractors.

Australia’s largest telco confirmed on 14 June that up to 1400 employees would be cut from its ranks.

At the time, Telstra chief Andy Penn revealed that the proposed job cuts would affect roles right across the company’s entire business, as it launches itself headlong into an overarching transformation strategy.

However, the CWU asserts that the impacts of the NBN were being felt unevenly at field level due to the “patchwork quilt” nature of the roll-out and because Telstra has NBN operations and maintenance contracts in some areas and not in others.

In addition, it said the redundancies look to be more evenly spread, with one role being typically shaved off each team across regional areas.

Further, the CWU has alleged that contractors are being engaged in these same areas.

“We are seeking assurance from Telstra that contractors are not being brought on to do the work of Telstra employees facing redundancy,” it said.

“We are pursuing these questions with Telstra and welcome input from members who can provide information about what is occurring at local level in relation to work loads, work processes and use of contractors.”

However, the telco disputes the union's claims, saying in a statement to ARN that no additional contractors are being hired as a result of its restructure.

"The proposed workforce changes we are engaging on with our people and representative bodies do not involve engaging more contractors as a result of reducing our number of full time employees," a Telstra spokesperson said in a statement. "We have a longstanding relationship with thousands of contractors who play an important role in helping us build and maintain our networks."  

"We will continue to utilise services from contractors across Australia now and into the future, although this workforce too is impacted by changes in work volumes driven by various factors including the NBN rollout as well as changes in technology and the way customers consume our services."

The latest developments come after Penn revealed, in a message sent to Telstra employees on 14 June, that the previously announced cuts will come from most parts of the business across much of the country.

The proposed redundancies, according to Penn, are all part of broader plan to better position the company to tackle evolving market and technological pressures.

“Telstra faces an unprecedented world of technology innovation and digital disruption,” Penn said in the note. “This presents opportunities because we are at the centre of helping our customers adapt to technology innovation in their own industries.”

However, the union came out strongly against the telco’s move to slash up to 1400 jobs from it ranks, describing it as being driven by “top-down financial targets” rather than the telco’s self-professed need to “urgently” transform.

At the time, the CWU claimed that the job cuts were nothing more than an effort for the telco to hit its financial targets, arguing that Telstra’s inability thus far to pinpoint which parts of its business the first round of cuts will come from indicate.

Now the union has said in a statement that consultations are continuing with Telstra over the proposed redundancies and that discussions have been focused largely on the job losses in operations, especially in customer service delivery.

It said it was also involved in the consultations on redundancies in retail and in global enterprise and services. 

According to the union, on 28 June, following a face-to-face meeting the previous week, it wrote to Telstra seeking detailed information on matters related to the proposed redundancies in Field Service Delivery (FSD). 

“We want a clear picture of where contractors are being used as well as a breakdown of areas where there can be expected to be ongoing work for Telstra field staff through NBN-related contracts,” the union said.

The Telstra spokesperson said the NBN was a key factor because the reality is as responsibility for more and more of the fixed line infrastructure moves to nbn co there is less work associated with operating and maintaining that network.

"However, there are other key factors as well, such as the automation of our networks, the decline of use of fixed voice services, changing customer expectations and the need to reduce our cost base," the spokesperson said. "It is the combination of these factors that is the driver for our proposed workforce changes rather than just a single issue."


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