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The Impact of Telstra Closing One Canberra Call Centre (and many others around the nation)

June 6th, 2007 at 07:17am

It amazes me how long this story has taken to reach fruition. I was first alerted to this story at the end of February by a former work colleague, however I wasn’t sure of my own non-disclosure obligations from when I worked for Telstra through a casual employment agency last year. So, rather than making a public announcement at the time, I filled a few local media people in on the details. Nothing much happened on this story for a while so I didn’t continue to pursue it.

Yesterday the story rocketed back in to life when Telstra announced that they are going to close 13 call centres across the country. (Telstra press release) (Article on news.com.au)

Details of what is actually happening in Canberra are scarce, but 2CC news are reporting that Telstra are claiming 35 jobs will be lost in Canberra. The reality of it is that 75-80 jobs will be lost in Canberra as Telstra are only counting permanent staff, not the staff employed on a casual basis by third parties, which in Canberra means the staff employed by Julia Ross Hot.

Telstra have decided that they don’t want any call centres with less than 200 employees, unfortunately the Canberra Broadband Helpdesk, one of three in the country, and one of two to be closed, employs about 75 people.

This is not Bigpond support which is contracted out to Teletech, but instead is the wholesale line fault division. The basic role of these staff is to log faults reported by ISPs and schedule technicians to attend to and fix the problems, these staff also run tests for technicians, allocate new resources (exchange ports etc) to fix problems, and escalate issues which are more complex and require phone lines or other equipment to be replaced.

The three call centres often struggle under the load as it is, there is no way known that Brisbane can handle the load, which means problems are going to take longer to fix as it will take longer for appointments to be arranged, technicians will spend more time on hold waiting for tests (therefore getting through less jobs each day…and getting paid less now that most of them are contractors paid on a per-job basis), and followups will be almost non-existent.

If you think the need for these call centres is offset by the number of people who are now on DSLAMs (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexers) owned and operated by ISPs other than Telstra, think again. The only thing this does is change who maintains the exchange equipment…there is still a big heap of copper wire owned and operated by Telstra, and this tends to have more issues than exchange equipment. The impact of ISPs running their own DSLAMs on the workloads of these call centres is minimal, although it does increase the buck-passing a bit.

Conveniently for Telstra, the closures tie in with an asset consolidation they are in the middle of. For Canberra, this means the two buildings they own on Northbourne Avenue (the one with their logo, and the little one next door) will be sold. The staff who aren’t losing their jobs will be moving to a new building in Symonston before the end of the year.

The information I have is that, if probed too deeply about the local job cuts, Telstra will unfairly blame the ACT government. Apparently they were in “negotiations” with the government earlier this year for office space in Civic (a commodity the government don’t have at their disposal), in exchange for a guarantee about the number of staff Telstra would employ. The negotiations, which were never really serious, went nowhere, but telstra may use the ACT Government as a scapegoat if the pressure gets a bit too much for them locally.

Incidentally, if you have noticed a thing that looks a bit like a phone tower on the roof of Telstra’s taller building in Dickson, don’t be too concerned about it. Telstra’s actual phone tower is further down Antill Street, at the back of the swimming pool carpark, roughly between the tennis courts, putt putt golf centre, and storm water drain. The thing on the Telstra building’s roof has nothing to do with mobile phones.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: Canberra Stories,General News,IT News

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