Telstra culled linesmen in flood-affected NSW

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Telstra culled linesmen in flood-affected NSW

Telstra is sending 130 network engineers to a flood-ravaged area in which the telco culled nine linesmen just two months ago, according to the CEPU.

Telstra said today that it was sending an additional 130 technicians to south-east Queensland and the north coast of New South Wales to "recover all communications services impacted by severe flooding."

Ian McCarthy, NSW Branch Secretary at the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) said Telstra laid off nine network technicians in the Northern NSW area of Bellingen/Coffs Harbour less than two months ago.

In the latest layoff, reported in Coffs Harbour's local paper last month, Telstra Country Wide's general manager for the North Coast Sue Passmore said the cuts would not affect services as "more faults can now be fixed remotely, which reduces the field work required."

The Bellinger river is currently on the verge of a second major flood in three months.

"Telstra is now putting a call out in New South Wales, asking for its technicians to go to Southern Queensland to assist with reconnecting flood affected areas, and is calling on workers in Victoria to travel to Northern New South Wales to help out there," McCarthy told iTnews.

"I find it difficult to believe Telstra is shipping staff around like this, but not pulling back on its redundancy program.

"It seems crazy to us that you would put people out the door in these areas."

A spokesperson for Telstra chose set aside the politics of the situation, simply stating that Telstra's network is "not immune to damage as a result of natural disasters such as flooding."

"Redeploying staff to affected areas is part of our standard disaster response plan, as it is for other emergency and essential service organisations," the spokesman said. "We deployed extra staff after the recent Victorian bushfires and have often deployed extra staff after bad weather in Queensland and other states.

"It makes sense to put our people where the work is. After a natural disaster, our first priority is to quickly and safely restore communications for emergency services and residents."

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