Unionists say ‘enough’ of Telstra’s job offshoring

March 2, 2012
Dave Kerin
Dave Kerin. Photo: Takver

Dave Kerin from the new community group Enough has helped run a daily picket outside Telstra’s Collins St office in Melbourne for the past three weeks. The picket is a protest against Telstra’s decision to send hundreds of jobs offshore. Kerin is also an activist with the Socialist Alliance.

A speech Kerin gave at a 200-strong rally on February 17 appears below.

* * *

Up at the vigil, it’s a conservative precinct, the finance sector. And someone like me turning up with a megaphone and speaking every hour on the hour — it was new. It was different for those workers and those communities.

By the end of nearly three weeks we had members of the Melbourne Club coming over and agreeing with us. I’d never had that experience in my life.

We’ve pulled together a community organisation called Enough for two reasons. One, we believe that ordinary working Australians have had enough, and on the other hand we believe we have enough here to make this country work for all of our citizens.

Because we are citizens of this nation, and what’s being pushed at the moment is that a minority of shareholders in this country actually have more rights than we as citizens do.

We keep pointing out the Telstra sign on the building. If you look at the shadow on the wall, it used to say Telecom. And we used to own it. And nobody, no government, ever held a conversation with its own people — not from either side of the parliament — nobody came to us with a referendum and asked us if we wanted our national assets sold.

They went ahead and they sold it. And they made some promises. They promised that our jobs would be held.

We’ve lost 55,000 jobs out of the telecommunications industry. That is a crime against this nation, and we the citizens of it.

We should be able to determine the corporations that come to this country and the conditions under which they come. No corporation has the right to act in this country, other than in our interest.

Yet laws allow corporations to act against our interests.

So we have casualisation running at over 40%. Our young people are all casuals — where will they be able to borrow to buy a home?

We have sham contracting and Telstra is one of the worst offenders. They have workers going around with a van and they call them independent contractors. And they have to be available 7am to 7pm, seven days a week — what’s independent about that?

Video: Dave Kerin from Enough Telstra NGO Protest, 17 February 2012. Enough2012.

And they call each of them a company director for god’s sake. This is a sham — they all sign the same contract, there is no competition there.

And the offshoring. In India, right now, there are 300 free trade zones being set up — and there are no labour rights in them. It is corporations from our country that are going over there and treating Indian workers in that way.

From the beginning, Enough has always said what Telstra is doing, what the ANZ bank is doing, is introducing racism into industrial relations. They bring out workers from India, deliberately putting Indian workers between us and our jobs — that is fuelling racism, and it has to stop.

We have to reverse the past 30 years. Jobs have been offshored, our children’s entire future has been privatised, the national assets of our country have been sold off, without any reference to we, the people. And both sides of parliament have supported it.

We’ve had enough. And the Australian people agree with us. In two weeks we’ve had thousands sign the petition. Imagine if we had someone on every intersection in this city, we’d have millions of people make it clear to our senate that they want an end to offshoring.

We are about to enter the global financial crisis. Our economy is built on sand. [In] 80% of our jobs, somebody is selling something to somebody else.

Waves wash sand away, and when that tsunami of the GFC hits us, then the economy we have built on sand will wash away. It will wash away overnight. Who is going to buy the services?

Our government has a primary responsibility to we, the citizens of this nation. They have to stand up to corporate raiders like Telstra. And then there are the banks — ANZ, Westpac — selling our jobs overseas.

What we have to say is simple — don’t bank with banks that will not bank on us. Why bank on banks that will not bank on Australia’s workers, its children, its grandchildren?

And why is it that unions in this country are not free to determine, in the interests of their members’ rights, whether their job will disappear? Why is it union action is a crime, and yet it is legal for companies to steal the jobs from underneath those workers, and our children?

Enough of the lies. Stop telling us that casualisation is freedom and flexibility and choice for our young people — it’s none of those. Casualisation means our children have no future.

Stop telling us that privatisation is something that we ever agreed to. We never did. And every poll that’s ever been taken, 80% of Australians [have] opposed our national assets being sold off in the interests of a minority.

Enough has arisen. We will recruit. We will grow. We will confront organisations like Telstra until they get the message that if they want to operate in this country then anyone they employ must have full rights.

If they want to bring overseas workers out here, then bring them out as migrants with full rights, full citizenship rights, and not as second-class citizens.

I don’t want to live in a land and have to explain to my grandchildren that we have a group of workers out here who live differently to us.

My kids, my grandkids are brought up to believe that everybody who is brought here, comes with full rights and entitlements.


A lot of engineering and sales guys in the Collins street office, no management that might have any influence in off shoring decisions. This is a targeting failure on the part of the protesters. You might as well picket in a park somewhere for all the good it will do protesting outside that office.

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