Telstra in the dark on job cuts

6000 job cuts are slated to go in the next three years, but the telco doesn't know where or when

Telstra has denied allegations up to 6000 staff will be made redundant or cut through natural attrition over the next three years, but remains unaware of the total number to be cut in the next financial year.

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Secretaries at two of the major unions representing Telstra employees told Computerworld Australia redundancies were likely to number around 1500 staff throughout the company, though final numbers would remain unknown until the end of October.

"We've had no contact from the company regarding a further 6000 jobs to go,” national assistant secretary of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), Bert Blackburn, told ABC’s <i>The World Today</i> program last week. “I actually contacted Telstra's human resources department who quite frankly were equally surprised."

Secretary of CEPU’s Victorian branch, Len Cooper, met with Telstra this week, but said the telco was no clearer on the number.

“They’re claiming they don’t know where the 6000 figures [sic] have come from because they certainly don’t have plans to cut 6000 people. They’re basically saying ‘yes there will be redunancies’ and we’ll meet again when they’ve got a clearer picture of what it all means.

“They reckon they haven’t finalised their planning for the financial year, that’s being worked on.”

Cooper has been in negotiations with Telstra over a gap in the salaries of unionised and non-unionised employees. Eligible staff are now covered under a single enterprise agreement which will see a total rise of eight per cent delivered over the next four years, but those employees previously covered under the telco’s union agreement still face a pay shortfall of 2.5 per cent.

Telstra has flagged several lots of redundancies to take place during 2010 and in the near future, with up to 900 staff to go, including 345 in management positions. Staff in Grafton also face the axe as the telco plans to shut the local call centre.

The telco’s chief financial officer, John Stanhope, told shareholders at the company’s Investor Day, that more cuts were invariably coming while chief executive, David Thodey, pointed to a continuing program of attrition.

“The critical thing is that you’ve got to change the way we work, because it just comes back somewhere else, either in labour or in contracts and that’s been the problem,” Thodey said when asked about potential redundancies. “It’s sort of just flipped out rather than really coming out of the business.”

A spokesperson for Telstra confirmed that “business simplification processes” would lead to further redundancies, most likely out of the telco’s $40 million “Project New” initiative, to be headed by group managing director of customer satisfaction, simplification & productivity, Robert Nason.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) assistant national secretary, Louise Persse, said that while she was unaware of the exact ramifications of Project New on staff numbers, the cuts were inevitable.

“They are basically looking at business simplification so who knows what that will lead to,” she said.

Even though final attrition numbers are yet to be known, Cooper pointed to the telco’s human relations plans as double-edged, as Telstra looked to challenge a looming labour shortage in the face of future contracts to roll out and service the National Broadband Network (NBN).

“There will be a lot of work and they need a lot of extra staff. On the way hand they’re laying off staff and on the other hand they’re going to be looking for staff. They haven’t really planned it.”

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