The CWU met with Telstra on Tuesday 16 August to discuss the company’s decision to introduce scheduled overtime in Customer Service Delivery.
On Friday 12 August, Telstra notified the CWU that Customer Service Delivery (CSD) was moving to implement a “scheduled overtime and rewards program” in response to “significant challenges facing the business” ie a serious backlog in customer orders.
The announcement has caused considerable concern among employees, not least because Telstra has suggested they might be required to work up to 8 extra hours a week – to fix a problem that is largely of its own making.
A long-term problem
In the CWU’s view, the scheduled overtime move reflects a long-term resourcing problem in an area which has seen huge staff losses over the last decade and a half.
Over that same time, performance pressures on Communications Technicians have intensified, with the availability of overtime sometimes being used as part of a “carrot and stick” approach to performance management.
Communications Technicians have routinely been denied overtime if they do not meet certain performance targets. In some instances, CTs have reported being denied overtime after taking sick leave or carer’s leave.
This approach has led to an erosion of good-will among the field workforce and in this situation, calls for people to help out by doing voluntary overtime tend to fall on deaf ears. This is the context in which Telstra is now requiring employees to work scheduled overtime and it is not surprising that there is push-back.
At the 16 August meeting Telstra agreed to give further consideration to the longer term issues the CWU raised, particularly to the practice of using availability of overtime as a performance “reward” or “punishment”.
The CWU welcomes this undertaking. The union believes that a re-think about such performance management practices is a necessary first step in re-building good-will in the field.
In the meantime, management has also clarified its position on the proposed overtime schedule:
Members are reminded that while under Section 20 of the EA Telstra is able to “require” you to work overtime, the amount of overtime has to be reasonable. (In the CWU’s view, 8 hours a week would not be considered reasonable if the question was taken to the Fair Work Commission.)
You have the right to refuse to do overtime, but your refusal has to be reasonable too. Relevant issues are family responsibilities, your health and the nature of the work you’re asked to do.
Members required to perform overtime which they regard as unreasonable should contact their state branch promptly.