Shareholders in one of Australia’s biggest private sector employers, Telstra (ASX: TLS), have been urged by unions to apply pressure on senior management to stop cutting jobs for the sake of profit.
According to figures from the Community and Public Sector Union 10,250 people are employed as foreign contractors for Telstra at any one time, representing about 26% of the full-time workforce. The rapidly increasing number of overseas staff being employed by Australian firms such as Suncorp (ASX: SUN) and ANZ (ASX: ANZ) has sparked concern amongst unions, shareholders and the general public.
Since the beginning of the year, Telstra has cut around 3,157 Aussie jobs in a bid to increase profit. According to BusinessDay, 10 sites in Thailand have up to 8,000 staff working at any one time.
“Telstra likes to boast that it is creating new jobs, but what it doesn’t like to mention is that for the most part these jobs are overseas and were once fulfilled by an Australian worker,” CPSU organiser Teresa Davison said. “For a company that is going to receive $11 billion in taxpayer funds for the NBN and recently signed a $500 million IT contract for Defence, Telstra has a responsibility to Australian consumers, taxpayers and shareholders.”
Telstra CEO David Thodey, speaking today at the company’s Annual General Meeting in Sydney, excused a reduction in the number of call centre employees by saying, “our customers increasingly want to interact with us online… this means that our contact centre work is declining quickly and will continue to do so… whether they are here or overseas… ultimately, our aim is to keep creating new jobs that are sustainable in an increasingly digital, mobile and global world, and that’s what we’re doing.”
In addition to its Thailand employees, BusinessDay reported, “The telco has also engaged three Indian contractors – Tata, Wipro and Infotech – to run contact centres that employ nearly 2,500 people from four sites in India.”
Telstra, along with other major Australian companies, has turned its focus to Asia’s booming markets to grow revenues. Australian employees will continue to be at risk as senior executives look to cut costs but maintain a competent workforce.
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Motley Fool contributor Owen Raszkiewicz does not have a financial interest in any of the mentioned companies.