Prime Minister John Howard said today he cannot guarantee job security for Telstra workers once the telco is fully sold.
The government is now free to sell its 51.8 per cent Telstra holding after gaining the support of Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce with the legislation allowing the sale likely to be introduced to Parliament next month.
"I'd like to try and do so but it would be dishonest to attempt to give you a guarantee," the Prime Minister told Southern Cross radio.
"I can't guarantee an individual job - I can't guarantee it now with 51 per cent government ownership, I couldn't guarantee it if we had 100 percent government ownership.
"The only assurance I can give you is that if Telstra continues to be profitable and be competitive it is far more likely that it will be able to retain staff." Howard also ruled out introducing laws to stop Telstra shifting jobs offshore.
Early last year, Telstra came under fire after it said 450 contract IT jobs would be moved to India under an agreement with outsourcing partner IBM Global Services.
This practice is likely to become more prevalent in the future.
"We could pass a law stopping it but that would make those companies less competitive and they'd sack people elsewhere to make up the losses and we'd be no better off," Howard said.
Meanwhile, the government began advertising on the weekend seeking to appoint an investment bank to oversee the sale.
Finance Minister Nick Minchin said those selected will be appointed joint global coordinators and manage the preparations for the sale.
He said the ideal window for a possible sale is in October or November 2006.
The government has not made a final decision on how many banks will be needed to act as joint global coordinators, Minchin added.