Pollies call to arms

POLITICIANS representing three tiers of government met to discuss the closure of Telstra's Goonellabah call centre and a way forward yesterday.

Yesterday in Lismore, Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin, State Member for Lismore Thomas George and Lismore City Council Mayor Jenny Dowell raised concerns about the closure which will result in 116 local jobs being cut.

They sent a collaborative letter to Telstra chief executive officer David Thodey urging him to intervene and stop the closure.

The letter also asks Telstra to fully co-operate during the provision of a Rapid Response Team which will access the call centre and advise staff on various supports available.

Yesterday, all three politicians said they wanted to meet immedi- ately with Telstra representatives on the issue.

"Telstra haven't been forthcoming in talking to us and we want to get to the table to discuss this matter because it's very, very important, not only to Lismore, but the wider community in this Northern Rivers area," Mr George said.

Cr Dowell will meet with Telstra director of customer service Peter Jamieson next week.

"I've asked for an extension of time and I'm also going to be pushing the point: why is this necessary?" she said.

Cr Dowell said Telstra had not given the employees enough notice about the closure, which is scheduled for October 23.

"You can't possibly cope with the grieving process of losing your job and go out optimistically and confidently and look for another one," she said.

"There needs to be an extension and I've already asked Telstra management to extend that period into the New Year."

Yesterday on ABC Radio, Mr Jamieson defended Telstra's decision to close the call centre.

"It's a difficult decision and I understand people are concerned about it but it's not about the individual centre or the people involved. We've made a business decision that we need fewer contact centres and, unfortunately, one of the centres that we've made a proposal for closing is the Goonellabah contact centre," he said.

He denied allegations that Goonellabah call centre staff had been warned not to talk to media and said Telstra is "continuing to invest very heavily in NSW and regional areas".

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