PRIVATISATION: by News WeeklyNews Weekly
Telstra under fire
, June 17, 2000
In a submission to the Federal Government inquiry into Telstra, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has exposed the new management ethos since the organisation was part-privatised.
Telstra is one of Australia’s largest employers, with 52,840 staff last year. Its workforce has been cut by about 5,000 a year since 1997, and another 10,000 jobs will soon be slashed.
Concern about a decline in Telstra service standards is due to these staff losses in preparing for part-privatisation, according to the CPSU.
“Last year Telstra conducted a staff survey which showed a massive 67% of staff did not have faith in their senior management ... As majority owner, the Government should have sat up and listened to this, but instead it has supported Telstra’s plan to sack 20% of its workforce.”
The CPSU submission said that its members have repeatedly complained of the dichotomy between the theory of customer service and the reality. “In order to meet strict performance and sales measurements ... difficult problems were routinely hung up on or transferred on — ‘flicked’ as the practice is known.”
According to one employee, Telstra is “making consultants jack-of-all trades, master of none. Sales consultants in my office sell products from mobile phones to business faxstream services, and all business products, all mobile flexiplans, mobile phones, and we also take calls for residential, small business and single bill enquires. We need to know all the call costs for home, business, all past/present mobile flexiplans, and need to be a master of a minimum of 12 computer systems used daily.
“Reading time to keep up to date with changes in all these systems is given about one week in four, and no time for meetings to help people discuss their concerns have been given for three months. We are told directly from sales team managers, ‘Shut up or leave’.”
The submission said that the introduction of “performance based pay” and “managing for performance” has produced a work ethic which concentrates on achieving performance statistics and not on fixing customer complaints. “It is more important to log in and out ... at the right times than it is to spend the time necessary to analyse and repair faults”.
Another employee told the CPSU that his team were all offered redundancy packages. “With an average of 20 years’ experience in our team we were all let go in preference to a younger (cheaper) workforce with no knowledge and bad phone ethics. Most of them are back with Telstra now, but under contract with employment agencies. Obviously their expertise is still required, so why were these people let go in the first place?”
The submission documented how “one union member, unmarried and without children, was denied special leave to attend a grandfather’s funeral. Another full-time employee with a newborn baby was ordered to attend training on a Saturday ... no excuses, and certainly not ones to do with childcare difficulties.”
The CPSU submission concluded: “Since part-privatisation, Telstra’s customer service delivery record has deteriorated, thanks to management decisions and practices driven only by the financial bottom line. In its campaign to save Telstra, this union has adopted the slogan ‘Putting People First’”.