Workers at Sensis yesterday staged a 150-strong rally for jobs in Melbourne, demanding the company back down over its plans to cut 689 full-time positions and outsource 391 jobs offshore.
Days of shock at the scale of the job cuts is beginning to turn into anger, with workers at the rally voting to take unprotected strike action and walk off the job for the rest of the afternoon.
Sensis claims its profits are being squeezed by the decline of revenue from the print edition of the Yellow and White Pages. Sensis claims to be making a transition to a digital business… by firing its online workforce.
But the directories company, wholly owned by Telstra, made $685 million last year. And Telstra just declared a record $1.6 billion half year profit. This is no struggling company. Their plan to cut jobs is a blatant cost-cutting exercise aimed at increasing profits.
And while they are screaming about cutting costs, Telstra bosses are raking it in. Telstra CEO David Thodey just got an 8.7 per cent pay rise to $8 million dollars last year. That $8 million dollars could provide over 100 jobs. Former Sensis CEO Bruce Akhurst was paid $3 million before he left with a golden handshake of around $2.5 million.
Sensis workers can win
Sensis is counting on its unionised workforce going quietly and just accepting the redundancies. But workers can still fight back. Sensis workers, backed with solidarity action from other workers, will need to hit Sensis hard with an industrial campaign to stop the sackings.
By threatening their profits with industrial action, workers can make it more costly for Sensis to proceed with the sackings, and force them to think again.
Telstra is well known for its massive profits. Industrial action can win wide support. After all, it was the public that paid for Telstra to build up its business while it was publicly owned. If it refuses to guarantee jobs and continues its ruthless path of profiteering, it should be taken back into public hands.
But the campaign will need to target the Australian corporate bosses who are responsible for the sackings.
It’s Aussie bosses who are sacking Sensis workers
Sensis is proposing to outsource 391 jobs to India and the Philippines.
Portraying the fight at Sensis as a fight for “Aussie jobs” can feed into the idea that the problem is with overseas workers. But unemployment is not caused by lower paid workers in India and the Philippines. Workers in those countries are also fighting to improve their own wages and conditions. Filipino workers, for example, have been waging their own high profile campaign against out-sourcing by Philippine Airlines.
Filipino, Indian and Australian workers have a common struggle against greedy bosses of all nationalities. The fight at Sensis is a fight against obscenely highly paid Australian bosses who only care about profits.
Some recent campaigns over jobs such as the picket of the Melbourne Water site at Werribee have wrongly targeted 457 visa workers when the real cause of unemployment is Australian companies who put profits before jobs.
If you don’t fight, you lose
A strong stand for jobs in a high profile company in the heart of Melbourne would be a huge news story. An occupation or strike would hit Sensis hard, could extend the action inside Sensis and Telstra and win solidarity action from other workers.
Nobody except the handful of CEOs and managers supports outsourcing and off-shoring. In an election year, a high profile campaign could also push the Labor government into publicly opposing Telstra redundancies.
Sensis and Telstra are massively profitable. They are not going out of business. They still need workers. That makes them vulnerable to industrial action and gives Sensis workers the potential to fight back and stop the sackings.
Move this motion of support in your union:
Sensis, Telstra’s directories arm, has announced plans to sack 689 workers producing both the printed and online Yellow and White pages. Sensis claims to be making a transition to a digital business, but is sacking its online workforce. This is a blatant cost-cutting exercise aimed at increasing profits. Sensis still needs someone to do this work, but they plan to offshore 391 jobs to India and the Philippines so they can pay lower wages.
Sensis made $685 million last year. Telstra just declared a record $1.6 billion half year profit and its CEO David Thodey is paid $8 million a year. They can afford to pay these workers.
We send our solidarity to Sensis workers in your fight to save the jobs. We need to stand together to resist the wave of job losses across the country and demand secure work for all.