Former Telstra staffer criticises offshoring initiatives


news Former long-term Telstra staff member Rod Bruem has criticised the “massive wave” of offshoring that has occurred under the last two CEOs.

Making his comments in an opinion piece in industry newsletter Communications Day, Bruem said due to the large number of jobs sent overseas, “long suffering” Telstra customers may find “simple requests” resolved adequately “most of the time”.

However, he added: “Give them anything complex like reporting a mobile base station is down on a neighbouring rural property and they just have no idea. They’ll wish you a nice day and then nothing happens.”

The journalist, who worked 16 years in Telstra’s communications and public policy unit, said the “bulk” of the offshoring occurred under previous CEO David Thodey, but “Penn has continued it”.

Penn, he said, has taken up the reins at a “challenging shop” where a good portion of his bonus is based on improving the company’s “poor reputation for service”.

“But most of the people at the front counter don’t actually work for him. They’re all overseas contractors,” said Bruem.

The writer is not unsympathetic to the foreign workers to whom the jobs have gone. “[Y]ou’re dealing with big and complex systems in challenging environments. It’s not easy for a low-paid worker with a moderate understanding of Australian English,” he said.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) did not directly respond, but said that the offshoring model that Telstra has adopted relies on an “ultimately arbitrary distinction between low level and higher level tasks”.

“While such categories as simplex and complex have long had their use in the company, when they become the basis of creating two separate workforces they are likely to act as a barrier to problem solving,” the union said.

Image credit: Telstra


  1. As I’ve pointed out before, Telstra’s problem is not with the CEO. It is with the grasping careerists one or two levels lower who prefer to outsource than take responsibility for the appalling customer service for which the company is now globally renowned.

  2. A company starts at the top. If the bottom parts are not working properly it is up to the top to fix the problem. I expect you are correct that there are some managers at a given layer that prefer the political approach of pushing the problem somewhere else, however good management would get rid of them and get someone who is willing to take on responsibility for getting things working well. Liberals must be very happy that even less people are employed in Australia now. Keep pushing for a better leaner Telstra, none of those pesky low paying jobs will be local, only big paying CEO’s and managers.

    Personally I think our government should be stopping all the offshoring. Absolutely ridiculous to expect any government income through taxes if there are no locally employed people at all. Telstra held back from their recent offshoring until after the election of course to provide a smooth course for their biggest benefactor, the LNP party. Plenty of back scratching going on here.

  3. Nothing more than sour grapes from a has been that got the pump.
    Its really simple at Telstra, perform or be replaced. Those who want to cruise and complain are quickly shown the door.

  4. A useful article might offer and share alternative approaches to address the broad problem being described alongside suggesting why it might not be the best approach. That way we can all learn from the journalist/author/blogger.

  5. As I have posted previously, having worked there I can tell you that Telstra has an institutionalised management problem at senior levels. Too many generalists and not enough subject matter experts. Too many people being promoted to the next level because it’s their turn. Too many committees and too many avenues for people to avoid taking responsibility when things go wrong.

  6. Obviously these corporate tax cuts the the coalition are putting in place will enable Telstra to employ more locals

  7. Any Australian company should only employ Australian residents in Australia, and only employ overseas personnel for business done overseas. Otherwise they do not deserve to be called an Australian company. Maybe a new Australian company should be started to take over the communication business in Australia.

    • That’s an interesting statement Arnis although I’d like to point out that Telstra is a global company. Telstra also has international shareholders as well as being in most people’s super fund locally. If Telstra were to bring the jobs back onshore, they would make them even less competitive in the market.

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