More Telstra staff could qualify for retraining under a $100 million Commonwealth grant than the 6500 the carrier had previously identified as eligible.
Appearing before the Joint Committee on the NBN earlier this week, Telstra's government relations director James Shaw confirmed that provisions in the Retraining Funding Deed — part of the definitive agreements between NBN Co and Telstra — allowed Telstra to stretch the money further.
The deed is being used by Telstra to retrain staff that will be directly affected by the NBN and associated regulatory reforms, such as the migration of customers onto the new network.
Telstra reported in April that 6500 of its 15,000 staff were eligible for the retraining assistance. Most of the affected are believed to be in network construction and maintenance roles.
The carrier revealed in an opening statement tabled after a postponed committee hearing on October 9 (pdf) that the $100m would be used "to retrain certain employees to support the availability of an appropriately trained workforce for the NBN and to retrain Telstra staff who may otherwise face redundancy as a consequence of the rollout of the NBN".
Shaw expanded on the second part of that statement in a sparsely attended late night parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.
He described the 6500 previously announced as the "eligible workforce" but went on to say there was "another component, which we do not have a number for, which may be impacted by the NBN Co who would also be caught under this deed".
"There is just an acknowledgement that there may be more [eligible staff] and therefore they should have access to the retraining," he said.
When pressed on how many additional staff might be eligible for retraining due to NBN displacement, Telstra noted it "is almost impossible to say", and skirted attempts to put a ballpark figure on the additional staff.
The carrier did not respond to a characterisation by committee chair Rob Oakeshott of the extra provisions effectively being "danger money" that was built into the deed arrangement.
Pressed on what roles these other staff might have, Telstra's workplace relations and policy director Julian Clarke said they "could be customer staff working in call centres and in various other areas".
However, he indicated those recently laid off at regional call centres would not be eligible, as they were not displaced specifically by the NBN.
"The redundancy has to be related to the NBN rollout [to qualify for retraining]," he said.
The full term of the deed is for eight years, with the majority of technical training expected to be delivered "in years 3 to 8".
Telstra indicated in its tabled statement that it was already ahead of schedule in terms of the number of staff completing retraining modules.
It is hoped that those who are retrained will be able to pick up work on the NBN project, either directly with NBN Co or perhaps indirectly, such as through works contracted out to Telstra.