2014-07-16

    Global Operations Centre

    2014-07-16

    The Skill Drain

    Telecommunications offshoring jobs in Australia and its implications for our future.

    Systematic offshoring of Australian telecommunications industry jobs has been occurring for well over a decade.

    Telstra, the largest company in the sector, is also the biggest offender.  But Optus, Vodafone Hutchison Australia and up-and-coming companies like TPG and M2 all off-shore many of their functions in order to reduce labour costs.

    It is not only customer care and back-of-house jobs that are being lost.

    In the initial phases of this process, the jobs sent off-shore were typically in the areas of customer support and back-of-house administration. More recently a wider range of technical functions, including network diagnostics and management, have been outsourced to “industry partners” based outside Australia.

    Telstra, for instance, is currently in the process of transferring work from its Global Operations Centre (GOC) in Melbourne to an offshore “industry partner”, Infosys, based in Pune, India.

    Sending core network management work offshore marks a new stage in off-shoring –one which the CWU believes poses a threat to network security and reliability and will result

    in worsening customer service and loss of confidence in Telstra.

    Higher level technical work is also being sent offshore.

    But even these aren’t the only dangers that such offshoring represents. The CWU is also concerned about the consequences of what is becoming a steady flow of highly skilled technical work out of Australia.

    Optus, for instance, has recently relocated a number of higher level IT functions to Singapore as part of a regional restructure by parent company, SingTel.

    These trends are coinciding with the appearance of skill shortages across the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector and with a decade-long pattern of decline in enrolments in ICT-related courses at the tertiary level.

    A number of factors are contributing to this problem but uncertainty about the whether the job you might get today will go to India tomorrow is surely one of them.

    The thinning out of the Australian technical workforce through offshoring will weaken our capacities for problem solving and innovation at a time when these abilities are becoming more and more central to economic success.

    Time for action.

    It is time that Telstra – and Optus, the major banks and all the other guilty parties –acknowledged their national responsibility in this area, and that governments explored ways of holding them to it, requiring them to act in the public interest.

    The CWU will work with any and all elements of the federal parliament willing to help develop measures to address this issue. These could include:

    • Exploring ways in which the taxation system and government assistance programmes may be used to discourage off-shoring.
    • Introducing legislation requiring call centre customer service staff to identify their location on request.
    • Requiring companies to get agreement with customers, prior to offshoring customer information.

    LEN COOPER

    NATIONAL PRESIDENT