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Telstra redundancies: know your rights

The latest job cuts in Telstra have renewed concerns among CWU members about the new procedures that are part of the recently certified 2015-2018 Telstra Enterprise Agreement (TEA).

Members are asking firstly which EA applies to the current redundancies and secondly, whether they can now be redeployed into jobs they may not, for a number of reasons, be able to do.

Which EA applies to the recently announced redundancies?

The transition from the 2010-2015 Telstra Enterprise Agreement (TEA) to the newly approved TEA 2015-2018 has raised questions as to what procedures will apply to the current round of redundancies in the company.

Telecommunications News dated 6 November 2015 incorrectly suggested that any proposed redundancies notified to the CWU before the certification of the new agreement would be processed under the 2010-2015 TEA while any notified after that would be dealt with under the new agreement.

The relevant date, however, is the date when the employee is notified that his/her position has been made redundant, not the date when the union is notified for consultation purposes.

So employees notified of redundancy on or after the 12 November, the date the TEA 2015-2018 came into effect, will be covered by the procedures of the new EA.

Can I be forced to accept a job I don’t want and/or can’t do?

Under the new Enterprise Agreement, you no longer have the right simply to take a package if your role is made redundant. Instead, Telstra has the right to require you to accept redeployment, provided that it can find an appropriate role for you.

This does not mean that every employee whose job is made redundant will automatically be redeployed. Obviously, for instance, where Telstra has called for voluntary redundancies it is unlikely to insist that these employees accept jobs in another part of the business, rather than being retrenched.

But Telstra can redeploy you if it chooses to and if it has a “suitable” job for you.

So the question is what is “suitable”?  

Concern about the possibility of employees being placed in unsuitable jobs, as a way of forcing them out of the company, was one of the reasons the CWU advised Telstra employees to vote NO in the EA ballot.

But the EA was voted up by a majority of Telstra employees and has now come into effect. So now the CWU, with the help of its members, will need to monitor the redeployment process closely to make sure it is not used to put people into roles they can’t reasonably be asked to perform.

In the last few weeks of the EA negotiations, the CWU was able to build in some protections against such unfair use of the redeployment process. Under clause 40.1 of the new EA, Telstra must take a number of matters into account when it decides whether you will be retrenched or redeployed if your role is redundant.

These include:

  •  your skills and experience;
  • your likely ability to meet the requirements of the new role;
  • your preference and career aspirations:
  • the location of the new role.

If it can be shown Telstra has ignored any of these matters when it redeployed someone, there would be good grounds for getting the decision overturned. And good grounds, of course, for opposing any attempts to “performance manage” such an employee out the door.

Any member faced with redeployment into a role he or she does not consider “suitable” should contact the union immediately.

Will I be paid less?

Members should also note that redeployment cannot be used either to place Workstream employees into a Job Family role or to reduce their current pay and entitlements. (See clause 15 of the TEA.)

Workstream employees can, however, be redeployed into a job that is one band below their current grading level. In this case, they will be entitled to salary maintenance as long as the new job is in the same Workstream as the former one.

That salary level will then be “grandfathered” ie maintained but not increased until the rate for the new job catches up with it. (See item C.5 of the TEA.)

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