The Guardian June 7, 2000


Telstra tricks

Telstra's much publicised launch of a rural and regional division and 
the promise of 9,000 regional jobs is "misleading" says Colin Cooper 
Communications Division President of the Communications, Electrical and 
Plumbing Union (CEPU).

Mr Cooper said the union estimates that there are already 8-9,000 call 
centre staff based in regional Australia, especially if Tasmania is 
included.

Many of these centres have been targetted for redundancies, "a prelude to 
closing them down", according to Mr Cooper. "The Alice Springs centre will 
have one person left if the current wave of redundancies goes ahead. You 
don't need a crystal ball to see what Telstra has in mind there", said Mr 
Cooper. "And Ziggy Switkowski recently failed to guarantee the future of 
the Toowoomba call centre in discussions with local mayor, Dianne Thorley."

It is not that the union does not welcome Telstra's increased focus on 
rural and regional Australia  it does. But the union is deeply concerned 
about the implications of the new company structure, said Mr Cooper.

"We have had a country division in the past. That is nothing new. But why 
should this unit have its own Board unless there is a plan to run it as a 
stand-alone company at some stage?"

The Federal government is very keen to privitise Telstra. It's not very 
hard to see the more profitable (city) sections of Telstra being privatised 
with the public being left with the rest  perhaps with the fixed network 
and the regional business.

According to Mr Cooper "that might offer a short-term political fix, but it 
would be a recipe for the running down of large sections of the national 
infrastructure over time".

CPA view

Peter Symon, General Secretary of the CPA said that it is a disgrace that 
Ziggy Switkowski, who is a professed advocate of privatisation, should head 
a majority publicly-owned enterprise as important as Telstra. It is obvious 
that he, in cahoots with the Government, is planning his moves to help 
break up Telstra and prepare the way for its total privatisation. He should 
be removed from the Board which should be restructured to ensure that those 
who support the maintenance of Telstra as a publicly-owned company are put 
in charge.

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