Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This is no surprise at all. Trujillo is a disaster

Telstra using 'plastic bags' to patch lines

THOUSANDS of people are having their phones cut off every time it rains because cost-cutting by Telstra means the lines are no longer waterproof and sometimes protected only by children's lunch bags. The Daily Telegraph has learned the number of faults skyrocketed to more than 5000 problems during the rains last week, compared to an average of 1000 in normal conditions. The problem is so severe that parts of NSW are referred to as "Baghdad" because the plastic bag patch-up technique is so prevalent.

The situation follows massive job cuts as part of the controversial cost-cutting program embarked on by Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo in 2005. The telco, which posted a $3.3 billion profit last year, has slashed thousands of technician jobs in the past 18 months, causing a massive backlog of work and leaving phone lines unprotected from the elements.

The situation hit crisis point last week when Telstra bosses were forced to issue a desperate directive asking technicians to work double time to clear the backlog. One text message obtained by The Daily Telegraph states: "Total volume is 5233 & we are currently in contingency mode. All efforts to complete ALL TOW's (tickets of work - fault reports) will be greatly appreciated."

Workers say Telstra's squeeze on technician numbers over the past 18 months - a cut of 2600 nationwide, including 550 in Sydney - has meant up to 50 lines in each underground footpath box are not properly protected. In many cases technicians, overloaded with the 500 per cent increase in workload, are forced to do hasty patch-up jobs with tape and plastic bags. They then put in a request for an outside contractor to complete the job but often this is not done in time, leaving the lines exposed to water.

The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union said Telstra's cost-cutting was to blame for a massive spike in faults. "These rising high volumes of faults are caused by Telstra's ongoing program of retrenching skilled communications technicians and major cutbacks to the maintenance of Telstra's copper cable network," assistant secretary Steve Dodd said. "Hundreds of skilled communication technicians have been made redundant in Sydney over the past 18 months following Telstra's CEO Sol Trujillo's announcement in 2005 to reduce its workforce by 12,000." Mr Dodd said there were safety concerns with people's phones being cut off at times of storms, floods and other extreme weather. The CEPU warned people to be prepared for a deterioration of services, including lengthy delays.


No comments: