Page MP Janelle Saffin takes the fight with Telstra to parliament following the announcement this week that 116 Lismore jobs will go.
Page MP Janelle Saffin takes the fight with Telstra to parliament following the announcement this week that 116 Lismore jobs will go. Jacklyn Wagner

Saffin takes Telstra to task

JANELLE Saffin has slammed Telstra's decision to axe jobs at Goonellabah call centre in a speech to parliament - read the transcript below.

Transcript of Janelle Saffin's speech to parliament yesterday regarding Telstra's planned north coast redundancies:

Tonight I had planned to highlight a range of wonderful events taking place across my electorate of Page.

Instead, I have to come here to speak about the cruelty of Telstra yet again.

I cannot comprehend, in all conscience, and neither can other people in my electorate, how the bosses can sit down and look at a map of Australia and say: 'We're going to close some call centres so that we can make yet more profit.'

They have picked Goonellabah call centre in Lismore. I understand that there is also one closing in Townsville.

The Goonellabah call centre will be axing 116 jobs. That is 116 local people - locals who have their families, their roots, their lives in the Lismore district.

Their kids have their schools, their friends, their sport and recreational activities; and kids and families with special needs have services. They are just dumped by Telstra and it is unconscionable.

Today I had a phone hook-up from Parliament House with the state member for Lismore, Thomas George; our mayor of Lismore, Jenny Dowell; and Mary-Rose Abbott from the CPSU, who is the organiser for many of the workers in our region.

We had a crisis meeting following the announcement by Telstra. I also had a phone meeting with Terry Watson, a local employment coordinator for our region. We agreed it is just not acceptable for Telstra to axe 116 jobs from a community of our size. Thomas and I are meeting again on Friday to see how we can best support our local people. In the meantime we will each be doing whatever we can to support Telstra employees.

I spoke to Telstra CEO, David Thodey, on Tuesday night and told him the community demanded this decision not be implemented but, given their track record, they will just go ahead. This is a cruel blow coming in the same month as Telstra announced, on their website, massive profits of $3.4 billion. Less than a year ago Telstra awarded CEO David Thodey a $2 million pay rise, along with millions in bonuses for other executives. Good luck to them, if they look after the locals, the workers and the jobs. But it is galling to see that these executives need to be reminded that here in the real world Telstra employees are trying to keep their jobs, so they can pay mortgages and support their families.

I encourage local people to support local jobs, support the community campaign, sign petitions that we have out on the street and let Telstra know that we will not accept this. The petitions that we have out there simply read: 'We the undersigned citizens of the Northern Rivers call upon Telstra Business CEO, Mr David Thodey, to intervene immediately to halt any plan to axe up to 116 jobs of employees at the Telstra call centre in Goonellabah. We further object to Telstra abandoning its workforce in country Australia and moving jobs offshore while recording massive profits, $3.4 billion, and awarding generous salary increases for executives.'

Also, following conversations with Mary-Rose Abbott, the CPSU organiser, and other people in the community I want to add some information: Telstra workers in Lismore have been doing Foxtel work and undertaking inquiries about billing services. Sixty per cent of calls are complaint calls, so, even if you took away Foxtel work, there is still a need for this complaint service.

Telstra today have redirected that complaints work. It has gone; it has been redirected. Telstra has also hired young workers on six months probation. That ends on 12 October. They announced that they will close this centre on October 21. These young workers are now concerned that they will not even pass probation. The atmosphere at the call centre is intimidatory, with workers told not to speak out and with human resources personnel standing outside the room provided for the CPSU to speak to workers. I want David Thodey to change that direction immediately. So far, the only redeployment offered has been to Hobart. That is a long way from Lismore-and I can see members opposite nodding at me.

At the centre are a number of married couples, with dual income loss. No way will they pay the mortgage or the rent. How can they do it? One worker has just paid for things that will happen in November-going on holiday, as families do-and now cannot afford that. Foxtel work will go back to Foxtel. They have started advertising for workers on the Gold Coast. If Telstra workers apply for these jobs, they will not get a relocation payment as they are going to another company.

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