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2016-08-18

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Scheduled overtime in Telstra: an admission of poor workforce management

The CWU says that Telstra’s move to put employees on overtime rosters amounts to an admission of poor workforce management.

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”.

“Significant challenges” is Telstra-speak for the labour shortages the company is now facing as it attempts to juggle its new contractual obligations for NBN maintenance with its ongoing responsibilities for those sections of the Customer Access Network (CAN) where services have not yet been cut over to the NBN.

The weather along the east coast in the first half of the year hasn’t helped, especially given the underlying condition of much of the CAN – itself the result of Telstra’s policies, especially labour outsourcing.

And the switch by the Coalition government from an all-fibre NBN to one based more on copper and hybrid copper/coaxial cable (HFC) has complicated resourcing by requiring Telstra to refocus its internal training programme.

But the bottom line is simply not having enough skilled employees – a result of years of a strategy that has been centred on outsourcing, cost-cutting and an increasingly coercive approach to employee productivity.

Last but not least, there is also the question of the adequacy of the training that is now being received by new entrants to the workforce, given the “accelerated” programmes that have been used by at least some of Telstra’s training providers.

All this adds up to a perfect storm ..but it’s not one that could not be anticipated.

The fact is that telecommunications is not an area that lends itself readily to lean “just-in-time” management and investment strategies, whether we’re talking infrastructure or skills – a reality that underlies the labour shortages that the NBN project also faces.

Telstra knows this when it comes to technology – hence the additional $3 billion investment in keeping “ahead to the curve” recently announced by CEO Andy Penn.  It needs to bring the same thinking to workforce development and management.

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