The Guardian November 15, 2000


Privatisation's grim logic:
Telstra plans 17,000 more job losses

by Peter Mac

It was only last March that Telstra made its shock announcement that it 
intended to sack 16,300 employees over the next two years. Since then some 
1239 jobs have been lost, and last week leaked documents revealed that the 
organisation is now planning to reduce its workforce to 34,000 employees. 
This means that the actual number of jobs to be lost would be 18,000, i.e. 
1700 higher than the figure given in March by Telstra's Chief Executive Dr 
Ziggy Switkowski.

Six thousand three hundred of the job losses announced in March were to 
occur in the organisation's construction division, Network Design and 
Construction (NDC), which Telstra management wants to eventually sell off, 
with some 400 NDC employees retrenched in the short term.

Since most of NDC's work is in rural areas, it is the bush that will bear 
the brunt of the cutbacks, in the form of reductions in service.

The President of the Communications Division of the Communications, 
Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), Mr Colin Cooper, said last week that 
the job cuts showed that Telstra's claims of commitment to regional areas 
were a nonsense.

Mr Cooper said: "These job losses are more bad news for Telstra's rural 
customers. ... (Telstra) managers are being relocated to regional centres 
as a publicity exercise, but at the same time funds for service 
improvements are being held back. That's why we're seeing job losses  not 
only in NDC, but among the external contractors as well."

Mr Cooper claimed that the job cuts were affecting the ability of Telstra 
to provide a basic service and to modernise.

He commented: "We know, for instance, that there's a mounting backlog of 
installation orders right across the country.

At the same time, the Besely report has highlighted the need for more 
investment in rural and regional sections of the national network, so that 
services in these areas match those available in urban Australia.

"That's work that NDC could and should be doing. Instead it's laying off 
staff."

The Federal Government denies any responsibility for staff losses.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Anderson, stated last week that the 
Government was not responsible for Telstra's actions. However, Mr Cooper 
has indicated that government policy as well as Telstra management is to 
blame for the job losses.

Meanwhile, the haemorrhage of Telstra staff continues. Only 14 years ago 
the organisation employed the equivalent of 94,420 full-time staff. This 
was reduced to just over 84,000 two years later, and to 73,307 by 1995.

If the privatisation-fixated moguls of Telstra get their way, by 2002 the 
numbers will have fallen by nearly two-thirds over a 16-year period.

That is, assuming that the remnants of the Telstra organisation are still 
around by then, and it hasn't been completely gobbled up and renamed by the 
private sector.

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