Defence of Telstra fires up

April 5, 2000


GEELONG — Five hundred members of the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) marched into the Melbourne headquarters of Telstra on March 30 and occupied its ground floor to protest against the company's job-shedding plans.

CEPU members issued a 10-point proclamation titled "Telstra staff takeover the company". It called for the immediate dismissal of all senior executive managers, opposed any further sale of Telstra and called for no more job-shedding or mistreatment of staff. The occupation ended with CEPU members vowing to keep Telstra in public hands.

That night, 100 people attended a public protest meeting here to listen to CEPU officials and federal and state Labor parliamentarians.

Len Cooper, the Victorian secretary of the union's telecommunications and services section, explained how services were being reduced due to short staffing of skilled technicians on fault crews. John Brown, the assistant secretary of the union's postal and telecommunications section, told the meeting that jobs were being lost in areas suffering up to six weeks' delays for phone connections.

Federal ALP member for Corio Gavan O'Connor told the meeting it was "proper for government to review the appropriateness of retaining government assets from time to time. However, Telstra is a critical piece of economic and social infrastructure."

He pledged his complete opposition to the further privatisation of Telstra and said he would vote against any such move by a future ALP government.

The Geelong meeting was one of a series of public meetings in regional areas. Meetings in Bendigo and Morwell each attracted 300 people and a meeting is planned in Ballarat in the near future.

Geelong Trades Hall has passed a motion of support for the campaign against any further sale of Telstra.

Len Cooper told Green Left Weekly, "This campaign is a national campaign with other unions and the community, and will be bigger than the GST. We will not give this up. It's too important for our members."

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