|Issue No. 152
|13 September 2002
The Legacy of 11/9
Interview: Still Flying
International: President Gas
Politics: Australia: A Rogue State?
History: Levelling September
Unions: Welfare Max
Bad Boss: Welcome to Telstra!
Health: Fat Albert: The Grim Reaper
Poetry: A Man From the East And A Man From The West
Review: The Sum Of All Fears
The Locker Room
Week in Review
The CFMEU Race Debate #2
Keeping it Clean
Sue the Leaders?
Welcome to Telstra!
By Jim Marr
When TeleTech isn't being itself, one of the world's largest call centre operators, it's happy to dress up as Telstra in drag.
Which is exactly how it passes off its Victoria Government-subsidised operation in Moe. Over 300 people work out of Ollitern Ave premises, branded with the Telstra logo, and just to add to the illusion they're required to start their conversations ..."Welcome to Telstra".
While customers might reckon they're being dudded by this approach they can always look on the bright side. At least, by and large, they don't work there, but more of that later.
The Teletech-Teltra deal makes for a win-win relationship at company level.
Teletech can subject Latrobe Valley workers to a range of born in the USA industrial relations policies that Telstra can't be seen to endorse in these politically-sensitive times, and both outfits walk away with a tidy little earn.
The way it works is a Telstra special as those familiar with the likes of Stellar would be aware.
First-off, Teletech wins Victorian Government support for establishing the Telstra Mobile operation in the state. This amounts to a wage subsidy of something like $1000 a worker.
Next it hires locals who are forced to sign Office of the Employment Advocate-endorsed AWAs that provide for salaries $6000 a year less than those earned by Telstra employees doing exactly the same work. Despite what Government and its Advocate might say, the simply reality is job applicants either sign the AWA or they don't work.
Then Teletech brings some of its own HR skills to bear, courtesy of one Robyn Dodds, previously of the Sale Jail.
To be fair, it's the uniquely TeleTech aspects of the workplace that have earned the operation this week's Tony nomination for Australia's Worst Boss.
Workers highlight bullying, significant and unexplained deductions from their wages, and unjustified dismissals as management policies they want reversed.
To this end more than 80 have signed up with the CPSU. When they sought a meeting over their grievances after a Monday stopwork meeting, management refused point blank but, moved by a strike threat, they entered talks later in the week.
Organiser Gail Drummond praised staff for their "backbone", saying management "scare tactics" were starting to backfire.
The workers want to be paid thousands of dollars they have been owed for months. Most of this money accrued because they were required fulltime for their first fortnight before reverting to part-time hours.
Repeated requests for the money to be paid had drawn blanks prior to the vote for industrial action.
They are also looking for an assurance that bullying of workers absent on sick leave will cease.
Drummond highlights the cases of two women, so incensed that they are pursuing unjustified dismissal cases against TeleTech.
The first, a pregnant woman, was dumped after being warned she was taking too many toilet breaks. Afraid, she started dropping calls back into the queue to cover her absences and was sacked.
The second got her marching orders for not ringing in daily to explain her absence, although the company knew she had been in hospital with pneumonia.
Drummond says the dismissals are examples of "bullying that has to stop".
Just last weekend, she says, a young woman received notification that her grandmother had died. TeleTech's idea of beareavement consideration? Five minutes away from the headset.
Some part-timers, predominantly women with young children, were promised rotating rosters so they could meet their family responsibilities. They have been rostered on eight-hour Saturday and Sunday shifts for the past 15 weekends.
The workers actions have drawn the ACTU, Telstra and even the Victorian Government into the shambles but, still, it seems, TeleTech, Moe, has a fair way to go to shed its Bad Boss label.
The action taken by Teletech staff appears to be paying off. Obviously motivated by the less than flattering media coverage of the dispute, Teletech's Asia Pacific supremo dropped everything this week and high-tailed it down to Moe to sort the mess out in person.
The CPSU's Gail Drummond reports staff are encouraged by progress and that industrial action has been put on hold.
"Not only have all the unpaid wages been paid, management has finally, if grudgingly, recognised the valid role of CPSU union delegates in Teletech.
"And if it is true that a handful of local managers got their arses kicked over this, that's kind of nice too," Drummond said.
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