Telstra management announced yesterday that it will close its Goonellabah call centre in October, with the loss of 116 jobs to the region.
Less than two years ago the telco promised that it was still committed to the area after it closed its Grafton call centre with a similar number of redundancies.
The company blames the cuts on ‘changing technologies and customer trends’ but it has been revealed many of the jobs are being offshored to the Philippines.
Staff have been told they can apply for other jobs within the Telstra network around the country or accept redundancy.
But ABC news revealed the move was part of a much larger shake-up of Telstra call centres, with 650 operator and help-desk roles nationwide to be outsourced to the Philippines.
Page MP Janelle Saffin and Lismore MP Thomas George have both taken a swipe at the privatised telco.
Mr George said he was ‘flabbergasted and incredibly disappointed’ by Telstra’s decision.
‘There’s no point in flooding our TVs with patriotic ads during the Olympics if you then go and fire the good, hard-working people who are the ones actually providing customer service,’ he said in a media release.
Ms Saffin said she was ‘shocked and saddened’ by the decision and accused Telstra of ‘abandoning the country’.
‘Telstra’s just got no conscience as far as the country’s concerned,’ she told ABC this morning. ‘I feel shocked, I feel sick because it’s people’s lives – it’s their jobs.’
In a statement that contained some familiar lines, Telstra said yesterday ‘there is never a good time to announce proposed staff cuts’.
The telco blamed the decision on ‘changes in the telecommunications industry’, saying incoming call volumes to the centre have dropped by 20 per cent in the last year. It expects the decline to continue ‘as more customers move to online and use our various self-serve options’.
It added that ‘after-sales service for Foxtel by Telstra customers will now be performed by Foxtel [meaning] a large portion of the work performed by our Lismore contact centre will no longer be required’.
Mr George said that despite the decision there was some good news on the horizon for Lismore.
‘In the face of this terrible news, it is important to remember that Lismore does have a bright future. Jobs in our region grew by 500 from June to July this year, and the unemployment rate fell 0.3 per cent.
He said the NSW government is encouraging job creation in Lismore and the northern rivers region through the Northern Rivers Job Plan, which includes direct grant assistance, payroll tax rebates and infrastructure support.
But businesses will need to be quick to access the first round of funding, which closes this Friday. Applicants should contact Craig Jenkins on 6622 6145 or email [email protected].