By Tom Jordan
SYDNEY — Having recently lost her job, Maureen Houlahan finds it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Paying off her heavy mortgage is hard enough but when the Telecom bill turned up she knew she wouldn't be able t,o pay it.
Telecom, according to its propaganda, is a compassionate organisation. If for some reason you can't afford to pay your bill in the time frame specified, then you should go and see them and they will see what they can do. With a partial payment Maureen did just that, and yes, they gave her an additional 14 days to pay the remainder of the bill. What they didn't say is that when the 14 days were up, Maureen would be cut off without notice. As it happened she was on the phone, in mid-conversation.
"The least I would have expected", Maureen told Green Left, "is that Telecom write or phone and say they were about to cut you off, or something courteous like that. That's the injustice of it, that when they give you an extension, they don't also give you warning that disconnection will be automatic the moment that time is up."
While Telecom does have some fall-back options for people who have difficulty paying, they obviously don't consider those whose hardship doesn't go away within 14 days. In Maureen's case, she fully intended to pay the remainder of the bill but was waiting on some money which didn't come through until four days after the deadline had expired. She was then landed with a $50 reconnection fee, which will be added onto her next Telecom bill.
"A Telecom supervisor, when appealed to with my story, was completely unmoved by it. It's that disjunction between ordinary people that occurs when some are in employment and others aren't and when those in employment feel they have no room for manoeurvre, that's what worries me most", Maureen said.