150 local Telstra jobs may go
By ALEX EASTON and AAP
ABOUT 150 Telstra call centre jobs at Goonellabah are under a cloud after the company yesterday refused to guarantee its future.
The Community and Public Sector Union yesterday rang alarm bells over the future of re- gional call centres after Telstra chief Sol Trujillo warned of plans to slash 12,000 jobs.
In a speech on Monday to announce Telstra's future direction, Mr Trujillo said: "As you ... look at the infrastructure that we have today, we have too much of everything. ... We have over 150 call centres."
A spokesman for Telstra yesterday dismissed the union warnings as speculation, but refused to guarantee the future of the call centres.
He said there were no concrete plans for the job cuts beyond the 12,000 figure, meaning all parts of Telstra's operation on the Northern Rivers ? including the call centres ? were exposed to cuts.
Even if the job cuts did extend into the call centres he said they were expected to run over a three to fiveyear time frame.
The spokesman quoted Mr Trujillo as saying: "In terms of any breakdown of geography ... I don't have that kind of detail, because we haven't worked out the plan to that extent."
Community and Public Sector Union organiser Kerrie Donaldson said Mr Trujillo's comments, combined with the plan to slash job numbers, had compounded already-strong fears at the Goonellabah call centre.
"They are worried about what it means for them," Ms Donaldson said. "That was the message they were sending out two weeks ago ... they knew this was coming.
"On all the regional sites the staff are quite intimidated because they know there are not many re-
employment options of the calibre of Telstra."
Opposition telecommunications spokesman Stephen Conroy told Channel 9 that the job cuts would ultimately hurt regional customers.
"Suburban, regional and rural Australia, they're going to be the hardest hit," Senator Conroy said.
"How are you going to improve services? The faults on the phones lines?
"How are you going to restore that sort of service by slashing jobs?
"The Government and Telstra in the past have been stripping money out to prop up the Government's budget and that's meant they've under-invested in their network."
Communications Minister Helen Coonan told the ABC the Government's Telstra sale deal ensured bush services were protected.
"They haven't got any choice about that, and they will need appropriate staff to do it," Senator Coonan said. "The Government has put in place robust safeguards for consumers."
Senator Coonan said the Federal Government would start rolling out $875 million worth of government subsidies for rural and re- gional Australia from today.