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Union flags further Telstra redundancies as outsourcing push continues

Union flags further Telstra redundancies as outsourcing push continues

The CWU claims cuts in design and service delivery follow redundancies in national fibre team and other areas

Andrew Penn - CEO, Telstra

Andrew Penn - CEO, Telstra

Telstra has continued cutting staff in its infrastructure divisions as the company moves to outsource many of these services to third party providers, according to the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

The company has kick-started plans to cut staff in a number of divisions as it looks to automate certain employee functions and outsource others, the union said.

The CWU, the organisation which represents telecommunications workers, said it met with the telco on Thursday 23 March to discuss Telstra’s plan to introduce the major restructure in its design and service delivery divisions.

Telstra notified the CWU on 21 March of an initial decision which flagged “further centralisation of design and related workflow functions.” This was accompanied by further outsourcing of “high volume, low complexity” work to “strategic partners” such as Cyient.

"The proposal is part of a new operating model for the Enterprise Services Team that would deliver improved customer service for Telstra’s enterprise customers,” Telstra spokesperson told ARN. “By creating a Design Centre of Excellence we would reduce process and production variation and deliver better quality work for our enterprise customers.

“Plus, the creation of a single team with sole accountability for managing our enterprise customers’ orders would drive further improvements in orders delivered on time and to budget.

"If the proposal goes ahead, it may result in the loss of 55 roles from various locations around Australia. This proposal is subject to an open and thorough period of consultation with employees and their representatives that will take place over the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said.

Many third party providers have been criticised by the IT Professionals Association (ITPA) for exploiting the nation’s 457 visa system and importing workers for entry level positions in the industry, rather than looking to hire Australian graduates.

The move follows the earlier decision in October 2016 to rationalise design functions and locations. The CWU said that decision led to the closure of three design sites and the loss of 53 jobs.

“The impact of those cuts was largely mitigated by a mixture of voluntary redundancies and successful redeployment,” The CWU said.

The union claimed the new plan would mean a net loss of a further 55 jobs across design and related service delivery areas - including workflow and end-to-end order management - with the greater part of them to come from the design section of the division.

Under the plan design is set to shed more than a third of its current workforce, excluding team managers, and bringing the total cuts in this area to around 90 over the last six months.

National Fibre Networks team

The news follows similar reports from the CWU that the telco has cut staff from its national fibre networks team.

This division is tasked with rollout of fibre infrastructure across the country including large-scale projects for a number of mining companies and the national broadband network.

The division consists of five ‘plough teams’ which the telco said will be reduced to three, resulting in the loss of 15 jobs.

Classification of workers

The union has had a number of disputes with the country’s largest telco before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), the most recent of which was in regard to grading of its service delivery field technicians.

The current dispute involves a number of technicians who are currently classified as CFW4s despite the fact that they are typically performing what the CWU argues is complex work involving the configuring and testing of routers for business customers.

Although it is the grading of these specific members which is in dispute, the CWU said issue potentially affects as many as 200 Communication Technicians.

The CWU has been pursuing this issue directly with Telstra over “a considerable period of time” and has met with the company on two occasions in 2017 in relation to the issue.

At the most recent hearing, Telstra tried to rely on the views of a witness who the company said was an expert in the Hay classification system on which the current Work Stream Job Descriptions are based.

The FWC pointed out that the witness’ credentials as an expert had not been established so his evidence could not be given “expert” weight.

Telstra has been required to produce any relevant further documentation in relation to the case before the next hearing.

Automation raises further concerns

Telstra is among a number of companies from a number of sectors exploring automation options which are affecting the potential future of current job functions.

In particular, the company recently flagged its intention of automating its internal procurement and supply chain processes in job advertisements seeking Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)-savvy applicants, especially those with experience of Blue Prism software.

Blue Prism is a UK-headquartered robotics automation software provider. The company’s solutions automate many parts of the procurement process, eliminating the need for manual input in these processes.

Telstra reported disappointing financials in its most recent half-yearly report, citing intense competition as the cause of its drop in profits.

The article was updated at 5:14 pm to include comment from Telstra.

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