Telstra’s new way to patch lines – plastic bags

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Thousands of people are having their phones cut off every time it rains because of cost-cutting by the No.1 telco, Telstra; meaning that the lines are no longer waterproof and are sometimes are protected by children’s lunch bags.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt of the faults, which has skyrocketed to more than 5000 problems during last week rains, compared to an average of 1000 during normal conditions.

The problem is so severe that parts of NSW are even referred to as “Baghdad” because the plastic bag patch-up technique is predominant. The situation follows massive job cuts as parts of the controversial cost-cutting program by CEO Sol Trujillo in 2005.

The telco, which posted a $3.3 billion profit last year, has slashed thousands of technician jobs in the past 18 years; causing a massive backlog of work and leaving phone lines unprotected from the weather.

The situation has been so severe that last week, Telstra bosses forced technicians to work double time to clear the backlog. One text message obtained by The Daily Telegraph states that the “Total volume is 5233 & we are currently in contingency mode. All efforts to complete ALL TOW’s (tickets of work – fault reports) will be greatly appreciated.”

In many cases, Technicians are overloaded with an increase of 500% in workload and are forced to do hasty patch-up jobs with tape and plastic bags. They then put in a request for an outside contractor to finish the job, but this often not done in time.

The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) said Telstra’s cost-cutting was to blame for a massive spike in faults.

“These rising high volumes of faults are caused by Telstra’s ongoing program of retrenching skilled communications technicians and major cutbacks to the maintenance of Telstra’s copper cable network,” assistant secretary Steve Dodd said to Australian IT.

“Hundreds of skilled communication technicians have been made redundant in Sydney over the past 18 months following Telstra’s CEO Sol Trujillo’s announcement in 2005 to reduce its workforce by 12,000.”

The CEPU has warned people to be prepared for a deterioration of services, including lengthy delays.

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