More than 10,000 overseas contractors are working for Telstra at the same time as the company slashes jobs at home to help boost profit.
This represents about 26 per cent of the telco's full-time workforce of 38,000, underscoring the extent of an aggressive outsourcing program to tap staff in low-cost countries.
Telstra has made 3157 jobs redundant since the beginning of the year - eclipsing the combined Australian manufacturing workforce of car makers Holden and Ford. Last month Telstra outlined details to shed 1100 jobs as part of a national restructure, sparking an outcry by unions.
Among jobs cut are 1100 from its operational department, 605 from its business directories business and another 1552 across the company, including staff in customer services, figures compiled by the Community and Public Sector Union show.
TeleTech and Teleperformance, two Philippine-based Telstra contractors, employ close to 8000 contractors across 10 sites at any one time, according to documents seen by BusinessDay. Contractors are mainly engaged to answer billing, internet and mobile inquiries.
Before the company's annual meeting in Sydney on Tuesday the CPSU has urged Telstra shareholders to pressure the company to stop sending more work overseas and retain local workers. The telco is one of Australia's biggest private-sector employers.
"Telstra likes to boast that it is creating new jobs, but what it doesn't like to mention is that for the most part these jobs are overseas and were once fulfilled by an Australian worker," CPSU organiser Teresa Davison said.
"For a company that is going to receive $11 billion in taxpayer funds for the NBN and recently signed a $500 million IT support contract for Defence, Telstra has a responsibility to Australian consumers, taxpayers and shareholders," she said.
Telstra has defended trimming its domestic workforce, saying offshoring call centre jobs is necessary to give the company flexibility in dealing with changing demand.
"We use a mix of Telstra staff, local agencies and overseas partners to manage our customer calls and service needs and this gives us flexibility in how we meet changing call volumes across the business," a Telstra spokesman said.
"While we have proposed that parts of our operations workforce reduce by around 1100 jobs by June next year, we have made other announcements that could see close to 1000 jobs added in other areas."
The company is shifting its focus from traditional businesses such as fixed-line telephony and Yellow Page business directories to investing in fast-growing areas such as 4G mobile services, cloud computing and international assets.
The telco has also engaged three Indian contractors - Tata, Wipro and Infotech - to run contact centres that employ nearly 2500 people from four sites in India.
Telstra reported a net profit of $3.9 billion for the year ending June 2013, up on $3.4 billion a year earlier. Telstra's total workforce has declined from 48,317 in June 2001 to about 38,000 now.
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.