Staff cull won't affect bush plans: Telstra

Telstra's axing of 8000 jobs "will have no affect whatsoever" on the quality of service to country areas, according to a Telstra spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the job cuts will impact 8000 current Telstra employees "across the board." This unlucky pool of staffers have not been tagged yet. Telstra has only identified them as "sales, service, vertical and cross functional people" from "no particular" locations.

Under its Country Wide business division launched on Sunday, Telstra will employ cost-cutting measures such as outsourcing the skills of existing rural tradesmen to perform "easy jobs like faulty reports and wiring down the street."

Despite the staff cut, regional Australia will receive an injection of 8000 new Telstra staffers to work in tight, "friendlier," shop-front style teams under area general managers with four to five dedicated support technicians.

"It's about getting back that local touch which I think we may have lost some time ago," said Chris Zipf of Telstra public affairs.

Zipf added rural customers can be assured of these technicians' credentials; they would need to be Austar-accredited representatives, he said.

Meanwhile, Telstra's plans for the bush were criticised by the Federal Opposition yesterday. Labor leader, Kim Beazley, doubted the viability of the new rural business, claiming it would be severed under the third and final sell off the national carrier. Sydney finance analysts predict the privatisation could happen any time next year.

Beazley accused Telstra of political maneuvering, telling ABC Online yesterday its real reason for launching the bush service was to quell fears of privatisation.

When asked how Telstra felt about the Communications and Electrical Plumbing Union's anger at the carrier's mass-contracter approach, Zipf replied he was not aware of the backlash. Instead he wanted to know who the muckrakers were.

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