Dehumanising the work place: the American model — the case of Telstra

19 Jun

In a word that rhymes with “word”: merde!

Your Rights at WorkWhy 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.

Next day

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.

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2 responses to “Dehumanising the work place: the American model — the case of Telstra

  1. madmouser

    June 18, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    All laws favor business and business is cruel and often times inhumane. It is what makes the world revolve, so we have little voice as to any changes.

  2. ninglun

    June 18, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    we have little voice as to any changes

    That is exactly why we here in Australia need to value and support our trade unions and working class movements, because individually you are quite right, we have little voice.

    All laws favor business and business is cruel and often times inhumane. Not always cruel and inhumane, after all, nor do all laws in Australia favour business, not quite yet anyway. That, however, is the trend.

    Come on Aussies, stop the rot. Put in a government that at least has some intention of resisting such trends.

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