Telstra staff to strike over pay

Engineers, call centre staff at risk from mass job cuts

Hundreds of Telstra employees are expected to stage a "mass walk-out" outside the telco's Melbourne CBD T-Life shop next Wednesday over salary arrangements.

Staff from "back-office departments to street" engineers will rally at the Bourke Street T-Life store, according to the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), in protest over new enterprise agreements.

The union is pushing for higher pay rates for Telstra staff. Under the agreement, the final pay offer remains at 2 per cent for one year, and 8 per cent split over two years, according to union communications division president, Len Cooper.

It follows news today of Telstra (ASX:TLS) plans to axe about 900 jobs from next year, which union officials say will affect network engineers and call centre staff. The cuts were revealed at a meeting yesterday with CEPU representatives.

Cooper said Telstra “frontline” managers made clear the cuts will affect engineers and contact centre staff.

“These are the guys who manage the frontline staff,” Cooper said. “We’re talking about [cuts] to the guys driving trucks, working around the pits, on [exchanges] and doing installations in customer premises, and handling the customer complaints.”

Telstra said the job losses will affect a “variety of roles” but did not confirm whether engineers and call centre jobs will be cut.

“The fact is, as we improve our networks and our know-how, there is less work required to design, build and maintain them,” spokesman Craig Middleton said in a written statement. “These proposed changes reflect improvements in our networks and the way we deliver service to our customers.

“We will be looking at a variety of roles, and these include management and back office functions… Improving customer service is very important to us and we will not compromise that.”

The cuts are subject to consultation and are expected to come into force next financial year. Telstra will discuss the cuts with CEPU officials next month.

Cooper said few Telstra staff who volunteer for redundancy during cut-backs receive it, but he acknowledged the telco offers “good” payout packages. He said the company had cut about 60,000 staff in 15 years.

In related news, Telstra’s New Zealand subsidiary TelstraClear has planned to cut up to 120 call centre staff, largely from its Christchurch centre, under a plan to outsource services to Manila, Philippines.

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Tags communicationsTesltrastaff cutsElectrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU)

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