||Issue No. 280||09 September 2005|
The Perfect Storm
Interview: Polar Eclipse
Industrial: Wrong Turn
Unions: Star Support
Workplace: Checked Out
Economics: Sold Out
Politics: Green Banned
History: Potted History
International: Curtain Call
Review: Little Fish
Poetry: Slug A Worker
The Locker Room
What Poor People?
Letters to the Editor
The revelations about Telstra that look likely to scuttle any chance of flogging off the last tranche of shares owned by the Australian people would come as no surprise to any readers of 'Workers Online.'
The CEPU has been raising the issue of the parlous state of the Australian telecommunications network for years. The CEPU has also raised this issue with Telstra. Telstra, typically, comes out slugging and shoots the messenger. The fact is the network has only kept going due to the commitment and dedication of those communications workers out in the field.
Telstra workers and customers have borne the brunt of management's spectacular stuff ups, offshore losses and demands for higher profit, year after year. Telstra workers, whose numbers have been slashed to the bone are
subject to punitive performance regimes which demand more work out of fewer people. Despite the rhetoric, Telstra could not give a damn about work/family balance or the effects of this on its workers.
In recent times it has come to light that Telstra workers in the field do not have the equipment that they need to do the job. Communications technicians have, in some instances, been told to hand over test equipment to contractors such as the TX120, a vital piece of equipment that the techs use primarily for determining the suitability of twisted copper pairs for use by Pair Gain Systems, ISDN and ADSL, but with application in the testing of such pairs for normal telephone services. The equipment is so fundamental to doing the job, but Telstra cannot find enough money left in the piggy bank to provide the equipment for it's own workers. Some equipment such as pit guards are not readily available. Telstra is quick however, to discipline workers who do not follow OH&S procedures such as using gas detectors and guards when working around pits. The hypocrisy is galling.
In the meantime customers have been subject to higher rental charges turning the telephone into a luxury item for many. Regional and rural customers cannot get access to broadband services, large areas are isolated by exchange failures and continued poor quality service, pair gain systems and other stop gap measures. What is unfolding is the real story of the privatisation of Telstra. A company that the workers, through it's union the CEPU warned was being starved of investment in the network, that does not have enough staff to fix the high level of faults. A company that has let faults escalate to an unsustainable level and then hidden that information from the market in order to keep happy the fat cat institutional investors.
In the media this week, a number of very credible commentators have started to openly discuss not just no further sell-off, but bringing the company back into public ownership. The continued provision and expansion of services to Australians demands it. Telstra workers cannot be expected to carry the burden of the run-down network on their backs any longer. If new CEO Sol Trujillo is about to commence another 'slash and burn' reduction in numbers of staff, as is being speculated, he should start at the top with the 'managers' who have benefited from the deception of Telstra shareholders and the Australian people, unless of course they can don a uniform, drive a van, haul cable, provide their own test equipment, and work ungodly hours in often awful conditions!
Len Cooper & Joan Doyle
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