Some of the machines at the centre of the argument waiting to be auctioned in Sydney.
Some of the machines at the centre of the argument waiting to be auctioned in Sydney.

Is Telstra selling off the farm?

By BELINDA SCOTT

TELSTRA is denying union claims that bulldozers, cable-laying machines and other heavy-duty equipment used to lay new phone cables in the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour will go under the hammer in Sydney on October 12.

Twenty Telstra drivers from the cable-laying division servicing the Mid North Coast will leave next week.

Telstra Countrywide Mid North Coast Regional general manager Michael Sharpe said this was 'old news' and the 20 positions were included in the 220 NSW Telstra jobs to be shed announced in July.

But the job losses are additional to the 43 Mid North Coast Telstra job losses, including five Coffs Harbour positions, announced in July, because the cable-laying unit was based in Newcastle and the workers travelled widely to lay cables.

Telecommunications Workers Union (TWU) branch organiser Steve Dodd said the fire sale of machinery and loss of drivers was further evidence that Telstra was abandoning the bush ahead of full privatisation and turning its back on rural phone subscribers.

Mr Dodd said the 20 jobs to go were not voluntary redundancies but Mr Sharpe said as far as he knew, they were voluntary redundancies.

Mr Sharpe said the machines used by the Newcastle unit were not being sold, but had been taken over by Advanced Services Group and were still with Telstra. He said the machines being sold in Sydney were probably old machines.

Mr Sharpe refuted the allegation that Telstra had a go-slow on faults, saying there had been no appreciable change in the region's fault rate, even with the recent rain and Telstra was still investing significantly in the bush, with $10 billion to be spent over five years.

Mr Dodd said shedding jobs and machinery did not make good business sense and was demoralising for staff, with the Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo, being paid 'an outrageous $8.7 million,' he said.

He said Mr Trujillo's annual salary equated to $166,964 a week; $36,798 a day or an hourly rate of $4543.



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