Telstra will make at least 422 staff redundant and close two regional call centres in a wide restructure of its customer service division.
The telco confirmed plans this afternoon to make 126 staff in Townsville and 116 in Lismore redundant as a result of the closures, citing a 20 percent decline in call volumes to its centres over the past year in favour of online and self-serve options.
The Lismore closure was also brought on as a result of changes in Telstra's servicing agreement with Foxtel, which would see the subscription television service take on more after-sales support duties.
ABC reported that the centre in Goonellabah, Lismore, would be closed by October this year.
The restructure would see back-of-house network testing functions moved from Melbourne and Sydney to existing centres in Townsville and Perth, as well as off-shore and outsourced call centres, affecting a total 180 Telstra roles.
An additional 229 agency staff in Melbourne and Sydney would also be made redundant as a part of the move, bringing the total affected to more than 650 roles.
Some of those roles would be outsourced to an unnamed company in the Philippines.
The cuts come in addition to Telstra's 164 direct and 159 agency job cuts in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in June in an ongoing move to off-shore roles to either Phillipines or India.
Those agency roles were focused on credit management, fraud investigation and credit checking, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The redundancies also coincide with a renegotiation of the enterprise bargaining agreement between Telstra and the Communications Workers Union.
According to a bargaining update the union posted this month, Telstra had sought to significantly change working conditions for call centre staff, increasing the length of shifts and cutting penalty rates outside those hours.
The union is set to meet with Telstra to discuss the redundancies this week.
"This is mixed up with a reorganisation and a centralisation in Australia as well as off-shoring," CWU Victorian branch secretary Len Cooper said, noting the negotiations were likely unrelated to this week's redundnacies.
"I'd be surprised if they were linked because the negotiations haven't finished yet, they've still got at least a few weeks to run. They haven't told us that so we're taking it on face value that they're not linked."
However, he warned that other cuts were likely in future, despite attempts by the CWU to negotiate job security and a plan to phase out off-shoring at Telstra under the new agreements.
"Like every business we're constantly reviewing the way we work to identify opportunities to improve customer service and simplify our business," Telstra said in a statement.
"We're also a changing business, with some parts of the business shrinking and other areas growing due to changing technologies and customer trends.
"As we have seen in recent times, this has meant adding staff in growth areas while reducing staff in others, and this evolution will continue.
"All staff will be invited to apply for roles in other centres or parts of Telstra. Successful applicants will be provided with additional assistance for relocation costs."
Telstra chief David Thodey recently trumpeted the drop in call volumes as a triumph in the bid to push more than half of the telco's average 500,000 customer interactions per day online.
"You've got to change the way you serve your customers," he told attendees at an American Chamber of Commerce event last month.
"Today, 30 percent of all interactions we have with customers is in what we call digital or online. Within a year, maybe 18 months, that needs to become 50 percent ... that's a radical change.
"Think about the impact that that has, and doing it in a way where the customer says 'hey I had a better experience'."
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Issue: 347 | March 2016