In a word that rhymes with “word”: merde!
Why do we still need trade unions? Why is workplace change not always “reform”? Why is Aldous Huxley suddenly relevant again? Why is the democratic spirit dead or dying in Australia’s Americanising work environment? Whatever happened to ethics? Could anyone be a boss in a place like this and still go to church on Sunday?
These and similar questions occured to me as I watched Four Corners venture into the battery hen environment that is the modern call centre. Visit the site linked to the banner below.
“We run an absolute dictatorship and that’s what’s going to drive this transformation and deliver results… If you can’t get the people to go there and you try once and you try twice… then you just shoot ‘em and get them out of the way… “ – Telstra Chief Operations Officer Greg Winn (at a May business meeting)
Once derided as fat and featherbedded, Telstra is trimming down. Applauded by an eager crowd of mum and dad shareholders, the lumbering giant is shedding costs and boosting productivity under trainer Sol Trujillo’s tough regimen.
But increasingly Telstra’s 40,000-plus workers say they are feeling the pain. Some angrily accuse the company of forcing cultural change too far, too fast and with scant regard to their welfare and dignity.
When Sally Sandic, a young Melbourne woman who worked at a Telstra call centre, took her life early this year, the spotlight shifted briefly onto Telstra’s management practices. No one knows exactly what caused her death, but friends and family claim her work put her under severe and unnecessary stress…
Oh brave new world! Read the forums as well as the transcript when you visit that site.
Telstra responds to Four Corners
Reporting on this episode of Four Corners, today’s Sydney Morning Herald concludes with this corporate blame-shift:
After last night’s program, a Telstra spokesman, Peter Taylor, told the Herald: “Let’s be clear: the Four Corners story was really about a union campaign against AWAs and other issues – and Telstra has been used as the bunny in the headlights, the easy target.”
The Four Corners website was last night swamped as people claiming to have worked for Telstra wrote in to show sympathy and support the families of Ms Sandic and Mr Dousset.
Peter Taylor may have a point: but Telstra is only a “bunny in the headlights” because it should be, and because the need for a “campaign against AWAs and other issues” has never been more urgent than it is now.
That’d be right, Telstra: shoot the messenger.
A good point was made by one of many Telstra employees, past and present, who rang Tony Delroy on ABC Local Radio last night. The current work place practices at Telstra reveal a lack of interest in quality (as distinct from quantity) of service, employee welfare, or even customers as people. All that matters is statistics. Mp3 here.