Optus has sacked 70 field technicians and asked them to re-apply for jobs as independent contractors on lower wages and conditions, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
After meeting with sacked Optus workers at a union office in Melbourne today, ACTU president Sharan Burrow said in a media statement that it is a sign that big business is starting to take advantage of the Howard government's new IR laws.
"The new IR laws will help big businesses like Optus, but they are already starting to hurt ordinary working families," she said.
The 70 Optus technicians have received letters of termination and will be offered a free seminar on how to write a CV and apply for jobs as independent contractors with Optus, according to ACTU.
Thirty of the technicians are from Melbourne, 20 from Sydney, seven from Brisbane; the others are from Adelaide, Perth and other locations.
"The Optus workers are currently employed as permanent full-time workers on average earnings of around $45,000 a year. Some of them have been with the company for nine years," Burrow said.
Optus has indicated that they will be re-engaged, but only as independent contractors. As contractors, the ACTU understands the workers will be required to pay their own superannuation, workers compensation, public liability insurance and cover the costs of a van, all materials and equipment.
ACTU also believes the workers will also lose entitlements to paid sick leave, public holidays and annual leave.
Optus has issued a statement saying that there will be about 60 redundancies in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as a result of streamlining its Customer Field Services area. The Telco said staff will be offered redundancy packages and outplacement support and there may be some opportunities for redeployment, with the same conditions.
"These decisions have absolutely nothing to do with Workchoices - the new IR legislation. We make decisions based on business requirements and the competitive environment in which we operate," the statement said.