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Four Corners: Tough Calls

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Once derided as fat and featherbedded, Telstra is trimming down. Applauded by an eager crowd of mum and dad shareholders, the lumbering giant is shedding costs and boosting productivity under trainer Sol Trujillo’s tough regimen. But increasingly Telstra’s 40,000-plus workers say they are feeling the pain. Some angrily accuse the company of forcing cultural change too far, too fast and with scant regard to their welfare and dignity...When Sally Sandic, a young Melbourne woman who worked at a Telstra call centre, took her life early this year, the spotlight shifted briefly onto Telstra’s management practices. No one knows exactly what caused her death, but friends and family claim her work put her under severe and unnecessary stress. Sally Sandic’s case is part of a Four Corners exploration of crunch workplace issues inside Telstra: the impact on staff of a shift from a customer service to a sales culture, the setting of ever-increasing performance targets and rigorous monitoring of individuals’ time and movements...In call centres, machines and managers closely track how much product each employee sells, what is said to the customer, how long it takes and how soon they can move on to the next call. Each computer keystroke is measured; "unproductive time", like toilet breaks, gets logged. Team leaders go to courses to be imbued with jargon that disparages workmates. One former team leader tells Four Corners how she quit in distress after realising she had begun to hate and bully her staff. "If I wasn’t doing it I’d be getting it from up above from my boss," she says...Out on the road, technicians are rated increasingly by how many repair jobs they can get to, not just whether they thoroughly fix them. Staff past and present complain to Four Corners that the incessant scrutiny is dehumanising, frightening and devoid of trust. Telstra says most employees thrive in the competition and denies "management by stress". "It’s responding to the needs of the business and … to what our customers are asking for," says a senior executive. Telstra is not the only large company to be thinning its workforce and changing its culture. But as it remakes itself in a wrenching transition from public to private hands, losing nearly a third of all staff, it is at the very sharpest end of reform. This report from Quentin McDermott looks at how drastic change can affect a workforce – and how it treats the customer at the other end of the line.
ABC (Firm), distributorKanopy (Firm), distributor
ABC, 2007.[San Francisco, California, USA] : Kanopy Streaming, 2017.
1 online resource (streaming video file) (46 minutes): digital, .flv file, sound
Title from title frames.In Process Record.FilmOriginally produced by ABC in 2007.In English
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Mode of access: World Wide Web.
LocationCollectionCall numberStatus/Desc
WebEmoviesSTREAMINGcheck availability online (Set: 01 Mar 2018)
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