Staff 'rated' for Telstra sackings

August 14, 1996

By Leo Wellin

Faced with implementing cuts of around one in three Telstra jobs, managers have begun implementing an assessment test allowing them to target individuals for redundancy.

The quaintly named "resource rebalancing" process is based on managers rating staff on five criteria: skills and knowledge, effectiveness and commitment, customer focus, leadership and safety. The skills assessment includes rating the ability of staff to be flexible in the hours they work.

The ultimate aim of this very subjective assessment is, of course, to identify those with "attitude problems" or those unable to cope with changes and current workloads resulting from widespread multiskilling and downsizing. Already, productivity is the subject of rigorous monitoring through daily, weekly and monthly statistics. And staff in key areas such as bill inquiries, sales and service installation currently undergo regular "performance development reviews".

A Community and Public Sector Union bulletin dated July 31 states, "this attack ... is being driven by management's decision to cut large numbers of staff and Telstra's desire to control who can go, who stays and who it wants to get rid of".

The bulletin points to the existing redundancy agreement, which is based on "voluntary retrenchment in all circumstances". The agreement also provides for a staff swap: people declared excess who don't wish to be redeployed and do not want to leave Telstra can swap with someone who does.

The CPSU circular warns of Telstra's proposal "to introduce a redeployment system that will see staff charged under the disciplinary procedures if they do not accept redeployment".

Supervisors and line managers are currently training in the "resource rebalancing". In areas where the unions are weakest — the International Business Unit and the Commercial and Consumer Business Unit in Brisbane — managers have begun assessing staff.

Overall, management's approach to job cutting in Telstra has been to implement the cuts by merging units. Suitability for redeployment or redundancy can then be assessed on the five criteria.

The results are dramatic. For example, the business and government business plan for the next 12 months includes staff cuts of 1032 in seven different areas.

To date, the telecommunications unions' response has been to hold stop-work meetings to inform members about the "breakdown in the participative approach". No industrial action has been called, but the CPSU and CEPU have lodged disputes in the Industrial relations Commission asking that the "resource rebalancing" program be stopped.