Telstra road show on privatisation

Issue 

By Leo Wellin

In an effort to address staff concerns about privatisation, the Chief Executive Officer of Telstra, Frank Blount, has been touring the country with his "staff road show" for the last two months offering his opinion on the "change in ownership structure".

During the slick presentations Blount has admitted that, since his appointment in 1993, his directive under both Labor and Coalition communications ministers has been to facilitate the privatisation of Telstra.

While recognising that "many Australians — including a substantial number of people in Telstra and the unions — are uncomfortable with privatisation", Blount's only commitment was to deliver "higher quality service and better value ... without seeking profit at the expense of the values [Telstra has] traditionally endorsed."

According to Blount, the main advantages of privatisation are easier access to capital; more joint ventures with computing, banking and entertainment corporations such as IBM and News Ltd; and "an increase in commercial focus [read profits] and accountability."

He also outlined plans for an employee share ownership plan (ESOP) so that Telstra staff can become part-owners of the company — never mind the fact that as Australian citizens they already "own" Telstra. The objective of ESOP is that staff become even more aligned with the company.

Blount's presentations, Project Mercury and the news last week of 9000 jobs to be axed in the next year are all aimed at making Telstra a financially lucrative proposition on the share market in the event of privatisation.

Telstra workers not "up to speed" with the "new demands and new realities" recently outlined by Blount should take note of Telstra's director of employee relations, Rob Cartwright's statement that "staff without necessary skill and experience [will be] exited from the company in an effective and timely manner."