NBN sacks staff by Zoom in the Midst of service Issues

Government-owned telecommunications giant NBN Co has said 50 staff will be sacked, as internet service providers agitate for a solution to failing service standards due to a lack of engineers. Company insiders told The Australian Financial Review that affected staff was instructed to work from home on Tuesday and allocated five-minute online video conferences with senior managers, during which they were said their roles would be made fire.

The roles affected were not in field services but were supposed to be in office-based roles. A spokesman for NBN declined to confirm the particulars, saying it was NBN company policy not to remark on separate or team worker matters. The job losses come after a purge last year that targeted 800 staff. At the time, NBN chief executive Stephen Rue said the completion of the initial network rollout would decrease the number of workers hired, and that sequentially would reduce the number of permanent staff required.

In May NBN Co said it is on track to reach its revenue for this financial year after posting $3.5 billion revenue in the nine months to the end of March.  The company paid staff nearly $80 million in bonus in the second half of 2020, with Mr. Rue earning more than $3 million last financial year, topping taxpayer-funded salaries.

“As NBN transitions away from the initial build of the network, the company is continuing to evolve the structure and size of its internal workforce,” NBN spokesman Greg Spears said when asked about this week’s job losses. He said the decision to make staff stay away from the workplace and have the conferences with their managers remotely was in line with company policy.

“Employees at NBN who are personally impacted by the organizational change are requested to work from home during the notification of the proposed restructure and start of the consultation process, with conversations held via videoconference,” Mr. Spears said.

“This is an approach that NBN takes as a nationally located company to ensure a consistent and confidential experience for all employees, regardless of where they or their line management are based.” The Community and Public Sector Union and the Communications, Electrical, and Plumbing Union were called for the statement about the job losses, but neither had replied in time for publication.

After an emergency online conference on Monday, where NBN make an apology to RSPs and said it would work to fix problems with its appointment scheduling system, it has since written to clarify new measures it is putting in place to try to remedy the problem.

On the other hand, The Australian Financial Review said NBN was still showing a lack of understanding about customer service. The new system assigns appointments for customers with less than 24 hours’ notice, often requiring people to be at home all day, yet if they cannot be home for this automatic appointment time, it is up to the customer to cancel. Optus vice-president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said NBN should simply stop using its useless new systems until they were working appropriately.

“It’s not working as intended and this is resulting in very poor consequences for customers,” he said. “If Optus were in this situation, we would take a real focus on the customer and we would be rolling back to the old system, ensuring manual workarounds so minimum service levels are met, and be truly accountable for our errors. NBN is not doing any of this.”

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