Telstra call centre 'one of the worst'
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
STRESS levels at Goonellabah's Telstra call centre have been described as some of the worst in Australia by former employees and union representatives.
The accusations follow the suicide of two Melbourne Telstra employees whose families claimed on ABC television's Four Corners that pressure at work drove them to their deaths.
Casino man George Gifford, who worked at the Goonellabah centre until March, said morale at his former workplace had plummeted in the 18 months before he left.
He said unrealistic sales targets and constant surveillance of staff were responsible for the gloom.
Mr Gifford, 51, worked at the centre for three years and achieved high sales figures until targets were sharply increased in 2005 shortly after Sol Trujillo was appointed as Telstra's chief executive officer.
Mr Gifford said there had been a clear shift in focus from customer service to sales since Mr Trujillo had taken over. "Every call you took had to be taken further," he said.
"A lot of people would call up stressed because they couldn't pay their bill, but we were expected to try and make sales to those people. We had to make sales, no%matter what."
Mr Gifford was fired when he failed to sell enough broadband connections for the month of February.
"I felt low when I was put off. My self-esteem dropped because I wanted to be a good salesperson," he said.
"But then I realised a lot of people were in the same boat as me. Even some of the top sales people at the centre are disenchanted by the changes that have been taking place.
"There was a lot of pressure and a lot of people cracked."
The Community and Public Sector Union's national organiser for Telstra said the situation at the Goonellabah centre was one of the worst he had heard of.
"It's particularly bad in% Lismore," he said.
"We've had many people there dismissed for not meeting targets, which keep going up, and these people aren't poor performers."
Union field organiser for the Far North Coast, Michael Hogan, said there was a turnover of about 15 a month among the 170 at Goonellabah.
"And it can be as high as a 70 per cent turnover among new starters," Mr Hogan said.
Eight current or former Goonellabah call centre employees yesterday complained about the working conditions, but would not be named in The Northern Star after being warned by Telstra not to speak to the media.