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Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network
Rollout of the National Broadband Network
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Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network
CHAIR (Mr Oakeshott)
Mitchell, Rob, MP
Husic, Ed, MP
Symon, Mike, MP
Cameron, Sen Doug
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Content WindowJoint Committee on the National Broadband Network
Rollout of the National Broadband Network
DWYER, Mr Dan, Divisional Secretary, Communications Division, CWU, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union
EASON, Ms Rosalind, Senior National Industrial Research Officer, Communications Division, CWU, Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union
Committee met at 18:08
CHAIR ( Mr Oakeshott ): I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network. Before calling our first witnesses, I ask a committee member to move that the media be allowed to film the proceedings today in accordance with the rules set down for committees, which include not taking footage or still images of members' papers or laptop screens.
Mr MITCHELL: I move that.
CHAIR: Thank you. It is so ordered. Could someone also move that the committee authorise the publication of records of evidence, the submissions and exhibits received up until today, which have been circulated and detailed and which will be recorded in the minutes?
Mr HUSIC: I so move.
CHAIR: It is so ordered. This public hearing is part of the fourth six-monthly review of the rollout of the National Broadband Network. In its hearing today the committee wishes to particularly focus on Telstra's workforce issues associated with the NBN rollout. The committee started to look at these issues in its public hearing in Sydney on 16 April and made a number of comments and recommendations in the report tabled yesterday in parliament. Specifically, the committee recommended, firstly, that the government report annually on progress under the retraining deed and, secondly, that an effort be made to communicate any emerging retraining needs and workforce demand.
I would like to thank everyone for being here and would now like to call the first witnesses from the communications division of the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union. I welcome the witnesses to the table. Thank you both for coming in this evening. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. Would you like to make an opening statement to the committee?
Mr Dwyer : Yes. I have prepared a short statement. We have also made a submission which should be before you. Firstly, thank you for the opportunity of addressing you today. The future of work in the telecommunications industry is of great interest to us and we have been through this on many occasions over the last 20 or 30 years.
As you are probably aware, we were one of the first unions in the world to achieve safeguards in relation to the impacts of technological change. They were inserted into our awards quite a number of years ago but unfortunately those safeguards have been stripped away in the course of award modernisation processes. In the 1990s we negotiated the best redundancy agreement, or one of the best redundancy agreements, in response to the impacts of industry deregulation. Fortunately that agreement still stands although at times we have had to defend it. We now face more structural change with the NBN, which has the potential to displace a significant number of people who are currently Telstra employees; it will certainly affect the majority of our membership.
Our membership is concentrated in the technical grades and particularly in the customer field workforce. The government commitment of $100 million to Telstra for the retraining of those who might otherwise be made redundant by the NBN project is particularly welcome. We welcome the terms of the grant, which effectively recognise the CWU and other Telstra unions as stakeholders and require Telstra to consult with us on implementation. We have prepared a submission outlining our involvement with Telstra. A further quarterly meeting between Telstra and CWU was held last week, on 20 June, and we can update the committee on that meeting.
In summary, we are satisfied with the general direction and pace of the program to date. We understand the program to be broadly synchronised with the NBN rollout itself and focused on work within the customer's premises—an area where we believe there will be work opportunities for our members well into the future. Nevertheless, it is our view that successful implementation of the program does not exhaust the issues facing Telstra employees or the wider industry workforce in relation to the NBN. As indicated in our submission, there are a number of questions surrounding the possible transition of Telstra employees into the NBN workforce, should they be made redundant, and how this transition might be facilitated—the issues here are the funding of recognition of prior learning and bridging training needed to meet NBN competency requirements. There is also a question of funding: firstly, for those in the industry who have long left, or who never worked for, Telstra—many of whom are now subcontractors—and secondly, for new entrants who would not qualify for funding under the National Workforce Development Fund. There is a lot of work being done in the industry around these issues: by the NBN itself in conjunction with the principal contractors and the registered training organisations, by the National Skills Standards Council's Innovation and Business Skills Australia, IBSA, by the state and industry training advisory boards, ITABs, and by training brokers such Communications Information Technology Training, CITT. Bringing these pieces together has been a slow process. CWU sees the need to ensure that these activities are sufficiently well funded and coordinated to ensure a timely supply of skills to the project. At present, there does not appear to us to be one body which has the responsibility or the resources for developing an overall workforce strategy in this area and ensuring its implementation. This is a matter which we consider warrants the committee's and the government's further attention. We are happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for that opportunity.
CHAIR: We will go to questions.
Mr MITCHELL: Dan, I am interested in the workforce shortages and the recognition of prior learning. Who is doing that sort of training? Is it mainly just the techies and the linies that will be getting that sort of work? With the new ribbon fibres and opportunities, what can be done with partnerships with schools or vocational education to help with that sort of skill shortage?
Mr Dwyer : Perhaps I could ask my associate, Ros Eason, if she could address that, then I may add something to it.
Ms Eason : Recognition of prior learning can be an expensive exercise, so maybe if we just start with the question of the possible pool of people who may come out of Telstra. Let us assume that a large number of people are in fact successfully retrained and redeployed but that some may not be. We can perhaps discuss that in terms of how that retraining is happening. Those people will potentially, nevertheless, be able to work in sections of the NBN project on the rollout, but they may not meet the criteria for funding under the National Workforce Development Fund to get the skill sets that NBN Co. has said they would require.
RPL is part of the solution to that, but who pays for it is the key question as far as we are concerned. Does Telstra pay for it as they come out of the workforce? I am not sure that that is covered by the terms of the trust deed. Do the individuals pay for it? That is possibly a problem in terms of it actually happening. Or is it part of larger government funding out of, say, the National Workforce Development Fund? That is a possibility, but I am not sure that it has been crystallised as a strategy, if you like, at this point. There are people working on that question around how you get the bridging training funded for people coming out of Telstra in particular. But RPL as a standalone exercise can be quite expensive. I am not sure that there is an answer out there as yet as to how that will be funded and how it will be packaged up, say, with some sort of industry strategy for getting those people onto the project with the appropriate skills.
Mr Dwyer : Perhaps I could add to that. As an old technician, I find this quite fascinating. I went to TAFE and got the diploma, what we now call a Diploma of Engineering, so I have a very good theoretical background. I have spoken to people and asked them, 'Where would I fit in today?' I worked in overseas telecommunications in the old days in the exchange, doing very high-level technical work. The answer is, 'It is too old; it is no good.' These days training seems to be tailored a lot. You are just trained on specific things. There is no overall theoretical training like we received in the old days. I would not have a chance of being RPLed in this situation. That would require me to do further training, perhaps, on optical fibre and joining—of course, I have never done that. I would be aware of a lot of the theory; I would not have the practical part, of how to do it. How you convert that over really needs me to be tailored into various segments of what is needed by NBN.
Mr MITCHELL: I know your pain. I do mechanical stuff. If I lifted a bonnet of a car now, I would be shot; I would never be able to work on a new car. Is an idea on cost to do a course? I know you are saying it is very specific in what can be discussed with RPLs. Have you got an idea of costing to run a course through a TAFE or a learning institution that might be able to do that?
Ms Eason : You would probably be talking thousands rather than hundreds. It depends, again, whether it is bundled up with some other bridging training as well. As I say, that is the problem. The TAFEs want people in seats, and they want people in seats for cert IIs and cert IIIs. They do not just want to have people come in the door, recognise their prior learning and then see them out. That is the difficulty. That creates a bit of a disincentive for them to do it. And, if they do do it, they tend to charge like wounded bulls for it. That is the practical problem in getting that RPL done.
It is a bit different from Dan's situation in the words you describe it. The people we are talking about, for instance, in Telstra may need some reaching training to work on fibre. Maybe or maybe not. It depends on what they are going to be doing when they, say, work on the rollout. But they do have competencies. They are competent workers in some areas of network build, but they do not necessarily have any formal certification or recognition of that. They can do it. It is not that their skills are out of date or anything. It is just that they will not have the formal recognition that is part of what NBN Co., quite reasonably, is asking for to have better quality control over the workforce.
Mr Dwyer : When they do them with Telstra workers I often see that they have a very long list of training courses they have done, but it is, as Ros said, that formal recognition that is missing. Having that recognised is obviously important to a person who is made redundant, but it is important even if they stay in Telstra with the way the new scheme is to operate.
Mr SYMON: Dan, I would like to ask you in particular about the automatically eligible work group. It is an issue I asked Telstra about in Sydney. Particularly I want to know about the people in it and how they are in it but also the people with skills who are not in it and have not been defined as yet. Has the union got any greater knowledge about that than Telstra were able to provide us at the time? Have they conversed with the union or do you have information that says, 'There are people beyond the 6,255 that could fit into that group'?
Mr Dwyer : We had that discussion just before we came here. I will just make the point that I have sought the deed but I think that must be commercially not available to us. But in the discussions we have had, yes, we have talked about these things.
Mr HUSIC: You indicated that they have not shown you the RFD, but have they, in effect, taken the core components as they relate to the union and explained them? Have they walked you through those components in detail? Are you satisfied with the explanations or the interpretation of the deed as it applies?
Mr Dwyer : Without having seen the deed, we cannot say yes or no. But particularly having read the report from yesterday I think the answer is yes. But Ros has been at the meetings, so I will let her elaborate.
Ms Eason : Again, coming to the question of the eligible group, we have assumed that that would encompass the large majority of the customer field workforce and a very substantial proportion of people in network design and construction. If you add those two sections of the workforce together, you know you have your 6,000 or so already. Then there may be people on the network side who, for instance, now sit and monitor faults on the copper network who will presumably have a lot less of that work to do. In fact, they will not be monitoring the whole national network at all. There are people nominated by Telstra in the wholesale area where it relates to copper products who will become potentially redundant as well. But the core of it is the customer field workforce—service delivery and the design and construction functions. We are satisfied at this stage that that is going to be targeted. Those people are going to be targeted for the actual retraining. There may be some questions around the edges, but I do not think there is any question that the core of people who will be targeted by this funding are the people who need to be targeted.
Mr SYMON: Is it right to say that this would seem to be going to the top end? That is, the people who will be selected for this are those with high levels of skills. What happens to workers at the semiskilled end—for instance, pit and pipe workers? Is there any scope for them to fit into that, in your view?
Ms Eason : There are very few of them now in Telstra. Telstra outsourced most of the civil works functions years ago. For instance, in the technical designations for the customer field workforce, I think there is no-one in CFW1. There would be a handful of people who are CFW2s. I do not have the exact numbers, but they are in the hundreds, certainly not the thousands. So that lower level work, by and large, has gone out of the company. There are people I know now working on remediation as part of the agreement with NBN Co. My understanding is that there are also people being brought in as labour hire to do that work, because in fact Telstra does not have a large workforce sitting there doing that kind of work anymore.
Mr SYMON: Is there a group of workers currently at Telstra who will miss out on access to the AEW and, if so, who would they be?
Ms Eason : There may be older workers in the customer field workforce who—
Mr SYMON: Would they be copper based only at the moment?
Ms Eason : They may be. There may be people, for instance, in the field workforce who are working now on copper for whom there is not necessarily a role when they move across into fibre, because there is less of that kind of work with fibre. Apart from the impacts of structural separation, there is also the issue that the maintenance of fibre requires fewer people.
Mr SYMON: Because it is newer and because there is less chance of breakdown?
Ms Eason : Yes, There are longer runs, fewer joints. It is more reliable. So what are they going to do? You can retrain a certain proportion of the workforce to do the kind of work that Telstra is in this early stage, as I understand it, starting to focus on. That is, Telstra could train people who have some of those skills to do with wiring, lead-ins and so on to have a wider range of skills to use on the customer side of the network boundary. So those people go into the home and they put in the Telstra router, and while they are there they talk to the customer and explain why it is that the fridge is not talking to the TV and offer to help.
That is a suite of skills which we think would provide ongoing work for Telstra employees into the future, but not everybody now working in a customer field workforce will necessarily feel comfortable with that kind of retraining. That is one of the reasons we ask what is going to happen to those people who may fall outside the retraining net, not through any oversight of a deliberate kind but because the opportunity to redeploy them and to retrain them for useful ongoing work is perhaps limited. What happens to them? There may be work, nevertheless, for them still in various roles on the NBN construction side of things for a period of time, which is why that RPL component becomes an issue.
Mr SYMON: My last question on this subject relates to people who might be eligible to do it but who do not necessarily want to, for various reasons. What has the feedback been like from the workforce to the union in that regard?
Ms Eason : Mixed. I think there is some anxiety in some sections of the workforce over what it is they may be required to turn into. There are probably some age differences there. Probably some of the younger ones who are more attuned to the IP based world may be more willing to embrace it. To be honest, because the whole training program is in a very early stage, we have not had—
Mr SYMON: Yes. We have not even seen the deed.
Ms Eason : No, and my understanding from the last meeting we had is that we are talking about maybe 100 or so people who have been retrained to the point where they are actually going out and performing new functions. It is really a bit too early for us to be getting any extensive feedback from our membership. What we get is more like straws in the wind than any kind of real indication of how they are going to accept the possibilities of retraining and redeployment.
Mr SYMON: So is it right to say that there is a little bit of uncertainty—of not knowing what is coming?
Ms Eason : Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty in the workforce about what the impacts of this are going to be.
Mr SYMON: Thank you.
CHAIR: Senator Cameron, do you have questions?
Senator CAMERON: Yes. It says here that Telstra has indicated that as part of its proposed training program it will consider combining RPL with new training where it is 'reasonably able to do so'. Is that a statement of fact? Or do you see this as a barrier, this 'reasonably able to do so'? How is that working?
Ms Eason : There are two lots of RPL involved here. One is the recognising of prior learning that we are saying we would like to combine with the retraining to make sure that people have the best chance of coming up with a cert II, a cert III or a cert IV—that is, to bring people up to a full qualification level as part of the internal training program. Some companies do not like a fixation on certification, but most employees like it. Even if employees have got a guarantee of work for four or five years, or for 10 years, for them to come out of this exercise with a cert IV or a cert III would be, in our view, a good outcome. And that would be achieved by a mixture of retraining on the basis of recognised training packages and, possibly, recognising prior learning. We have raised that twice now, I think, with Telstra, both in the first meeting that is reported here in this document and in the most recent one, and again they have said: 'Yes, where it makes sense.' That is, where we are talking about maybe a few units needed to bring somebody up to a full qualification. But there is no ironclad guarantee.
Senator CAMERON: So have you had discussions about this definition of reasonably able to do so?
Ms Eason : We have tossed it backwards and forwards.
Senator CAMERON: And what is your view of it?
Ms Eason : Our view—
Senator CAMERON: Can I just mention the reason I am raising this. It is that, as a former union official, when I see these sorts of qualifications on training, I say: 'Well, that is just a barrier.'
Ms Eason : It is a barrier.
Senator CAMERON: Am I being too hard on Telstra?
Ms Eason : No. I think Telstra are saying: 'We don't recognise that as necessarily part of our obligation under the trust deed.' I think that is what they are saying to RPL people as part of the retraining to bring them up to a full qualification. I think—
Mr HUSIC: I cannot understand how they cannot do that. If you have got ICT levels that require a certain competency and you have to have trained up for that, then surely you have to recognise prior learning to get to that qualification. Are they not—
Ms Eason : You may not have to get to a full qualification though, that is the point. You can have a whole range of competencies and just have one or two units missing—and therefore you will not have a full cert II or a full cert III. That is the issue. You might end up with a kind of patchwork of skill sets which leave you just short of a full qualification.
I am not here to speak for Telstra, but their position has always been: 'We'll train people and where possible we'll bring them out at a full qualification level, but if that doesn't make sense for us—if it is just a group of skill sets and not a full qualification, then that is it.' We think it makes sense in this context to combine the two things. I will say this: Telstra do appear to be doing some work now on aligning their internal training to the ICT team package. And you do that if you are putting in place the preconditions for recognising prior learning. Telstra, historically, has done a whole lot of training which is not necessarily based on the approved industry training package and is not aligned to it. They are doing that work of alignment and that will provide the practical basis for RPLing. They are also a registered RTO, so they can do it internally. So the preconditions are there, but as to getting the ironclad commitment of 'Yes, we'll do that,' as you can see, we have not got that in these discussions.
Mr HUSIC: So Telstra has undertaken training that it believes is fit for purpose within Telstra—
Ms Eason : Yes.
Mr HUSIC: but this training fund is designed to build people's skills that will help them in the 'NBN world'. What is being done by Telstra, from what they have indicated to you, to move from a model where they have focused primarily on their own need, which I understand they would have prior to all these changes that have been required to be undertaken, to this point now where under the RFD they provide a training plan and they are supposed to retrain people to a standard that would be broadly accepted in the industry?
Ms Eason : The training that they have to undertake under the RFD has to be aligned to registered training packages and to nationally recognised qualifications. So, that is that. That part of it is not problematic, but they may deliver training which is based on ICT10, the relevant training package, where the quality control, as far as the actual delivery of it is concerned, is perfectly acceptable, but that may not bring people out at a full qualification level, which is the issue that Senator Cameron is investigating. To do that you may have to RPL them, and even when you RPL them they may not. We have raised that with them because we think that not only do we want people trained against externally recognised qualifications but we also like the idea of people coming out with a full qualification.
Senator CAMERON: I assume it is a skill based career path for your members at Telstra.
Ms Eason : Yes.
Senator CAMERON: So you are saying that people are being—these are my words and tell me if I am right or wrong—stranded between skill levels. They have been trained up to some aspects but not all the aspects to move them to the next level. Is that right?
Ms Eason : They are trained up to job descriptions, which align to AQF levels, but they have never been lock-step. Bear in mind that, historically, Telstra was the industry and did all of its industry training internally. It has never moved entirely to an internal training program based on the AQF system in any kind of mandatory or lock-step fashion. Our job descriptions reference the AQF but they do not require you to have an AQF4 before you can move up to another grade in the skill hierarchy.
Senator CAMERON: Thanks.
Mr HUSIC: In terms of the automatically eligible work group, has Telstra walked you through how they establish that group themselves—how they identify someone to be classified or categorised within that group?
Ms Eason : Not on an individual basis. At the very early meetings—and now I am talking about perhaps 18 months ago—the discussion was about the sections of the workforce: service delivery and network construction, and subsequently there was some discussion about the wholesale products that were copper based.
Mr HUSIC: Have they given a breakdown of the functions and the number of people estimated alongside those functions that you just detailed?
Ms Eason : They have not given a breakdown of the classifications. For instance, and I think you will see this in the first lot of correspondence, we asked for a breakdown in terms of how many CFW3s and CFW4s are going to be retrained—that sort of question—and the response was, 'We're not thinking of it in those terms; we're thinking of it in terms of functional areas rather than classification structures.'
Mr HUSIC: Is this more an estimating process by them as to who fits in the AEW, based on likely functions and aligning them with what would be outlined in the RFD? Or do they have a process of identifying someone who might be surplus to requirement, where they are no longer required to work on copper or HFC and then putting them in formally?
Ms Eason : I am not sure. My understanding is that it is the first process. I do not think it is a one by one process: 'This person may be about to become ... ' or 'This group of people here may be about to become ...' After all, that is not where we are now with the actual process. To an extent, this is a potentially forward-looking training program. To date no-one has been displaced whom you could say, with certainty, was displaced because the NBN rolled into town. In that sense it is anticipatory and the anticipation is that people who now work on copper will, over the next eight to 10 years, no longer be doing that. The current process seems to be based on the last discussion we had with them. The thinking is that the training and the redeployment of the workforce or the creation of new functions will follow the NBN rollout. For instance, the group of people—the 100 who I mentioned before—who have been retrained to do a wider range of functions on the customer side of the network boundary are obviously doing that in areas where it is possible to migrate people onto the NBN whereby they can resume active services. There is no work for them until the NBN is there and ready to provide active services for that group.
Mr HUSIC: As much as the NBN has not necessarily rolled out to the extent that that would make a lot of these positions redundant, would you agree that they have anticipated some of this by some of the plans that they have put forward for offshoring—for example, some of the functions and the restructuring of the organisation where they are offshoring work, in particular in the switch data network where they are proposing to offshore people? There was some coverage that was generated earlier in the year about their offshoring of 200 or so positions. I understand that at the time they were suggesting that was in anticipation of what would happen with NBN, that they wanted to move some of those functions. Is there any relationship that you can see?
Mr Dwyer : I was involved in that and it is hard to work out why they were moving those jobs offshore. Certainly, industrially, it was a major event for us because our people had to train the people who were replacing them. The jobs were sent to India and a number of people came out here. They were asked to train them one on one, but they also had software—there is a special name for it, which does not come to my lips at the moment—where people can sit remotely and see how the work is being done on the screen and learn from that. I was concerned about the fact that that training of others was not the sort of training we were wanting. We would rather see those jobs, because they are highly skilled jobs, staying here.
Mr HUSIC: Would the people doing that work be notionally designated within the automatically eligible workforce?
Mr Dwyer : From our discussions we do not think so.
Ms Eason : I do not necessarily see how they would be. To come to what you are suggesting, that Telstra is likely to take, where it suits them, a narrow view of what might be covered by the automatically eligible workforce—again, there is only so much room for movement around the edges of that. There is still a large core of people who, without doubt, are quite properly the target group, about which there is no argument. So in the case of those network functions, the high-level network diagnostics, like a lot of functions at present it is not all that much different in credit management. The lower level diagnostic or managerial or back-of-house functions in that case are being offshored and the higher level ones are being retained.
Mr HUSIC: In terms of any redundancies that have occurred—the actual agreement between NBN and Telstra was signed in March, or took effect from March; the RFD or the training plan has been prepared since then and I think was due to be lodged with the department in late April. How have Telstra dealt with any redundancies that have occurred in that time? Have they categorised those as normal, business-as-usual redundancies, or have they sought to retrain people who might be made redundant in the next few months?
Ms Eason : As always, they are saying formally that they will consider redeployment. But, in practice, I think most of the redundancies which have been flagged for consultation between April and now have probably taken place. A lot of them have not been in our—well, some of them are in our area and some are not. For example, the large swag that came from the credit management area; we probably only have a small number of members in that area of the 200-odd who were targeted. Again, in that case, I do not think we know whether there has been any successful redeployment. But, again, I do not know that you could easily argue that they are part of the eligible group in relation to the copper-to-fibre transition.
I will say that, of late, Telstra has been signalling to us—because we are in the aid discussions now—that they want a great deal more emphasis on redeployment, partly in order to comply with the trustee, which they are sharply aware of.
Mr HUSIC: What has been the nature of it previously where people have been identified for redundancy? Has it been easy to redeploy people within Telstra in the past? I am using 'easy' loosely, but just to sort of get a sense of—
Ms Eason : No.
Mr Dwyer : I would say no. I am told anecdotally that the redeployment is improving. But, in the past, most people had gone.
Mr HUSIC: Have you put that situation to Telstra and asked them what would be different between then and now?
Mr Dwyer : Not in those specific terms.
Ms Eason : Telstra is aware of the redeployment requirements under the trust deed, and that is going to affect a very large swag but not the majority necessarily of their staff.
Mr HUSIC: Has Telstra said to you words to the effect of, 'Every person in the AEW who is a beneficiary of retraining will get a job within Telstra'?
Ms Eason : No.
Mr HUSIC: Has that been asked of them?
Ms Eason : Not in those terms. But it is obviously the expectation, and it has been discussed broadly that, if Telstra is going to spend money retraining people, we assume that they are going to use them. They do not spend the money to retrain them, then push them out the door to work for their commercial rivals, presuming that they are skilled up in things that are of commercial use to the company.
Mr HUSIC: If they are using the $100 million that is being extended to them by the government, you might know—
Ms Eason : Yes. The assumption would be—and this has been discussed—and it is not quite the same as having something in writing that says, 'Anyone who is retrained will never be made redundant'. But, first of all, it is the expectation in the terms of the trust deed, that are public, that that is what it is for, to stop them being made redundant. Secondly, if you spend the money, even if it is a mixture of Telstra money and government money, you are still expecting, presumably, to use those skills internally.
Mr Dwyer : I think we are going from the presumption that they do not want to train anybody who they cannot find work for.
Ms Eason : Yes. That they cannot use.
Mr HUSIC: In the correspondence you submitted to us, in an email from Julian Clarke, Director of Workplace Relations and Policy, sent in late April to Dan Dwyer, under the subheading 'Relationship between competency clusters, curriculum and functional roles', the last sentence of their response says:
The capabilities and skill levels required of technical customer service workforces in an NBN world, as well as the distribution of those capabilities, is yet to be fully understood.
I do not understand how you could make that statement from a corporation of that size. Can you explain, from your perspective, how you understand that statement?
Ms Eason : I think they are perhaps being a bit disingenuous. But I think what is being said is, 'We still don't quite know what the exact profile will be of telecommunication service industry workers in the future and just what the skill mix will be which will be of use to the company and to any other companies.' So we are starting to see—not only in Telstra and their thinking but also in Optus and others—workforces developing, either internally or through labour hire, which have that kind of mix of skills that we were describing before. That is, they can do a range of functions inside the house. They have IP integration type skills, perhaps combined with cabling skills. Indeed, they are someone who can actually teach the customer, so they have customer relationship skills. That is a new sort of person, in a way. Exactly what that person looks like and what training you need to create them is not yet completely fixed. There is probably sitting underneath that a kind of industrial relations issue saying, 'We're not yet ready to pay that person an extra 50 per cent on top of what our people are earning now.'
Mr HUSIC: Just to cover this off, there are two types of consultations. There are tick-a-box consultations so that they can just say they have gone through the process. Or do you feel that this is an engaged process where the views are sought, where issues that are raised by the union are taken on board and responded to thoroughly? How would you categorise the nature of the consultations with Telstra to date?
Ms Eason : I would say it probably sits somewhere slightly in between. It is more than tick-a-box because Telstra is sharply aware of the fact that committees such as this, the government, the department and everybody's legal team, probably, are looking at it and looking at the implementation process. So they are very conscious of that. My sense of it is that all the way down the company in the different layers that we are involved with that is a sharp awareness, and that is creating a sort of willingness to engage. But, as you see here, it does not necessarily mean that everything we suggest or ask for is handed over or complied with.
Mr HUSIC: I am just surprised the RFD has not been made available in some shape or form.
CHAIR: We can pursue that. Thank you for coming today to assist the committee. I do not think there have been any requests for additional information. There may be some questions on notice. If you could, please get back to us as quickly as possible, if they do arrive, through the secretariat. I thank you very much for giving evidence today and appreciate you coming in.