The Guardian November 28, 2001


Stunning win at Stellar

by Andrew Jackson

In a major breakthrough, Telstra's Stellar call centre staff have been 
granted the first Award in the contract call centre industry.

It took a two-year campaign to win the Award, with Stellar employees and 
the CPSU fighting not only onsite, but taking the struggle to the NSW 
Trades and Labor Council, local and state politicians, holding public 
rallies to involve the media, and even registering a freedom of association 
complaint with the Office of the Employment Advocate.

The story of Stellar call centres is one of spectacular corporate bastardry 
(see Guardian 1053, 11/07/01).

Telstra set up the company in 1999 as a joint venture with US corporate 
giant Excell.

Telstra then outsourced many of its call centre functions and sacked 
thousands of its relatively well-paid unionised staff, only to re-employ 
them under the "new" company Stellar.

Under the non-union individual contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements) 
offered by Stellar, employees suffered some of the worst abuses found in 
the call centre industry.

Stellar exploited the inability of workers to bargain collectively, 
introducing 40-hour weeks, unachievable work targets, unwritten and 
changeable rules, wide-ranging powers for management to instantly dismiss 
employees, and wage rates that left full-time employees scraping the 
poverty line.

Management dragged known unionists and other staff who challenged the 
conditions before disciplinary hearings on trumped up charges. They also 
called in security guards or the police whenever a CPSU delegate attempted 
to visit the site.

Under the new Award, employees have won a 38-hour week, safety-net 
salaries, new penalty rates and redundancy provisions, and recognition of 
the CPSU and its delegates.

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