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2016-09-16

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Wideband Design: Telstra job cuts hit already depressed areas

Telstra is proposing to cut over 50 skilled jobs as it moves to further reorganise its technical workforce, this time in the Wideband design area in Customer Service Delivery (CSD). 

Half of these jobs will come from Tasmania and regional Victoria, areas which are already facing unemployment rates above the national average. The rest will come from South Australia, the state with the highest long-term unemployment rates in Australia.

Under Telstra’s latest plan, 53 jobs will be lost as a result of site function closures in Netley SA (27 jobs), Hobart Tas (7 jobs) and Ballarat Vic (19 jobs). Nine (9) new roles would be created - 4 in regional Victoria and a further 5 in Melbourne. 

The CWU met with Telstra on Wednesday 14 September to consult over the proposal which Telstra says is part of a larger exercise designed to make its design workforce more “flexible” and less complex. 

“Flexibility” is usually code for greater use of external workers ie outsourcing and Telstra has already outsourced substantial amounts of its Wideband design work, including to India-based Cyient. In this case, though, Telstra says that no work will be outsourced – at least initially. Instead it will be absorbed by the remaining design workforce. 

The CWU questioned whether that plan was realistic and will be consulting with members in all areas to assess the levels of work, including overtime, currently being undertaken by Wideband design employees. 

Over and above this question though, there is the fact that the proposed cuts will be a blow to local employment in areas where jobs are already hard to find. 

Telstra says the centres in question are now only responsible for a small proportion of the total Wideband design output. But why is that?  Presumably earlier outsourcing exercises have played some part in the decline in work volumes in these areas. 

This is the same pattern we have seen in recent years with regional call centres: first the work is drained out of them with outsourcing and offshoring, then they are closed altogether – not because there is no work, but because Telstra chooses not to have it performed in certain locations. 

The CWU will be drawing the attention of relevant state and federal politicians to this issue.

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