A decade of pain for Telstra staff with more cuts in store

Telstra has shed about a third of its local workforce over the past decade or so, and more job cuts are expected at the $61 billion telco, one of Australia's biggest private-sector employers.

Telstra has shed about a third of its local workforce over the past decade or so, and more job cuts are expected at the $61 billion telco, one of Australia's biggest private-sector employers.

And unions say they are being stonewalled on the plans, with the telco failing to identify where more than 740 of the most recent cuts will come from.

Australia accounts for about 30,000 of Telstra's 40,000-strong workforce, excluding this week's announcement that 1100 jobs would go. But annual reports from last decade show that Telstra had 44,874 full-time Australian-based employees in June 2001. The number of Australian-based employees fell to 39,657 four years later.

Telstra's total workforce has been declining for years, from 48,317 in June 2001 to 46,336 in June 2005.

Its total workforce was about the same level three years later - 46,649 at June 2008 - but this fell to 38,663 as shown in its December 2012 half-year report.

Telstra spoke to union groups on Thursday about its proposal to shed workers from its operations division. But unions say they have yet to be told where the bulk of the jobs will go from.

"We found out about 360 of the jobs," Community and Public Sector Union organiser Teresa Davison said. "But they couldn't give us any information on the 740."

Telstra was earlier this week grilled by shareholders on job losses and sending jobs overseas at its retail shareholder meetings.

Chief executive David Thodey told shareholders on Monday the company had hired as many people as it had sacked in the past year, about 2000, as part of a "business rebalancing".

Mr Thodey said it was challenging because he wanted a "vibrant Australian workforce", but wherever jobs were located they must deliver good service.

On Thursday morning, Telstra chief operations officer Brendon Riley confirmed the company's numbers would shrink over the next few years.

"Overall, probably every year we will get a bit smaller," Mr Riley said. "I don't know about indefinitely, but certainly for the next few years that will be the case."

The announcement of job cuts - to be completed by June 2014 - comes as Telstra faces fresh discussions with the Coalition government about the national broadband network (NBN), in particular Telstra's $11 billion commitment to allow its infrastructure to be used by the NBN and become a retailer only.

Telstra has said it is heartened by the Coalition's promise to keep Telstra shareholders "whole" - that is, not disadvantage them under a new deal. There are also expectations that Telstra will win work for the NBN rolled out by the Coalition, which will shift from fibre-to-the-home to fibre-to-the-node.

The job cuts are part of a sweeping restructure begun in May that is aimed at shifting spending from low-growth businesses, such as landlines, to high-growth ones, such as the NBN, and network applications and services, media and Asia.

Under the restructure, Telstra's operations will be reorganised into five groups, three of which - networks, IT solutions and customer service delivery - will be new.

The bulk of this week's announced cuts will come from Telstra Operations, the business unit that handles the design, construction, and operation of Telstra's networks, plus the delivery of some customer services.

Affected employees include fixed-network technicians in Victoria, NSW, ACT and Tasmania, the media operations team and the customer service team.

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