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2014-08-11

Telstra Field Improvement Programme

Telstra Field Improvement Programme

The CWU has raised concerns about the implementation of Telstra’s Field Improvement Programme and its relationship to performance measures for field-based staff.

As reported in E-bulletin #12, Telstra notified the CWU in late June that the three key areas of focus for field performance for FY14-15 would be:

  • Customer experience

  • Quality

  • Productivity.

Telstra says its Field Improvement Programme is designed to identify the specific factors that lead to some individual CTs meeting performance targets in these areas and others missing them.

Nothing could sound more reasonable.

In practice, though, employees’ ability to score highly on any of these measures depends on a range of factors, including many beyond their control:

  • the training they have received (or not received)

  • the way work is scheduled by Telstra

  • the complexity of the job

  •  the overall state of the copper network

  • whether or not the targets are realistic in the first place.

For years the CWU has also pointed to the fact that performance measures based on quantity will often only be achieved at the expense of quality. This is particularly so for workers who are employed on piece rates i.e. AWA staff and contractors.

The CWU met with Telstra over these issues in late July. Branches argued that current performance targets were unrealistic. Targets in NSW for instance have recently been raised to 10-12 jobs a day. The union believes that this is not achievable for employees working a standard 7 hr 21 min day.

To meet that target workers would either be doing unpaid overtime or cutting corners or both.

Branches also questioned the current use of unfiltered revisits data as a work quality measure. For instance, this data does not show instances where a revisit was needed because the customer was not home.

Of particular concern was Telstra’s own admission that the reason for some workers’ not meeting targets was inadequate training – for instance, workers not knowing how to use test equipment they had been issued with.

How can this be?

The answer must lie in part in the quick-fix training Telstra has encouraged in its attempt to remedy skill shortfalls caused by its own cost-cutting.

But to the extent that the problem is widespread it may also reflect Telstra’s systematic attempts to undermine the current grading system by having less highly trained, and so less costly, staff perform functions above their skill and grading level.

The CWU is willing to work with Telstra to identify ways in which field work can be performed more effectively.  But Telstra must recognise that no amounts of carrots and sticks at individual level will solve problems that arise from short-term thinking and cost-cutting at a corporate level.

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