Tasmanian Coalition members and senators today lobbied Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo to keep its Launceston call centre open, amid plans to shut down 13 centres and axe 12,000 jobs by 2010.
Under the restructure, Telstra's 17 technical support centres will be culled to four sites in Townsville, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth with most cuts predominantly affecting regional offices.
Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan supported the move to save the Launceston centre, which will be the worst affected with 257 job cuts, and said the effect on regional communities must be considered.
"I support the proposal by my Tasmanian colleagues for Telstra to reconsider its decision to close some of the call centres, especially the Launceston centre which employs more than 250 people," Coonan said.
"Call centre closures still have an impact especially in smaller regional centres such as Launceston [and] I look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Telstra to determine workable solutions for those communities."
Federal Member for Bass Michael Ferguson, who convened a meeting this morning between Telstra officials and members of the Tasmanian Federal Liberal Party, said he will forward a business case to Telstra to pledge the feasibility of retaining the centre's operations.
"Today's meeting provided an opportunity to express our united opposition to the planned shutdown of the Telstra call centre and the withdrawal of employment from the region [and] we do not agree that the decision is in the interests of Tasmania," Ferguson said.
However, the telco refuted union claims that its employees were ordered to stay silent on the cut-backs, noting that they are fully entitled to speak with media and government without reprimand.
Telstra also clarified that the consolidation of the 17 centres to four "Super Call Centres" was not linked to privatization.
Ferguson said that Telstra employee entitlements will be honoured, including relocation assistance for those moving to the super centres, while the company will contact local call centres to find employment for those facing redundancy.
"We will be seeing Telstra again and will be putting forward a case for the retention of the local operation," he said.
Telstra claimed the biggest job losses will be in Launceston, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide and Wollongong, which will suffer 957 job cuts.
Telstra has more than 2500 staff across 17 Australian support sites.