Telstra begged workers to ‘volunteer’
Australia's biggest telco emailed staff to plead for "volunteers" as the company reeled from the coronavirus pandemic, it has been revealed.
In an email with the subject line "We need your help!" obtained by news.com.au, which was sent to full-time staff in July, Telstra executive Nikos Katinakis urged employees to "seriously consider volunteering" their time.
"Many of you will be aware that parts of our international workforce has been severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in their respective cities. It means that we are experiencing a number of challenges in meeting the needs of customers," the email, dated July 13, states.
"While we are working on enabling as many direct and partner employees as possible to work from home, we need to do more to increase our workforce capacity and support our customers.
"This is where you can help."
Mr Katinakis explained the company needed "some more volunteers" to help with responding to customer inquiries via the My Telstra app, as well as various complaints.
He said volunteers would be given "full training" and could continue to work from home.
"You also don't need to volunteer full-time - you can commit for three to four hours continuous blocks of time," he wrote.
"I urge you to seriously consider volunteering. Our customers and our colleagues need our help, and I would really like to see the … team step up and get involved."
It is understood the email was a temporary, one-off request in response to specific challenges posed by the pandemic, and that where possible, volunteers were able to incorporate those new duties into their existing working day.
The email came just weeks before Telstra recorded a 14.4 per cent drop in net profit to $1.839 billion for the full year ended June 30, with total income falling 6 per cent to $26.2 billion.
A Telstra spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the email to news.com.au and said the organisation was "really proud" of staff who had volunteered to help out.
"Like many other telcos and companies around Australia, COVID-19 has impacted many parts of our business, including our contact centres both in Australia and overseas," the spokesman said.
"We have always had contact centres based around the world to ensure we have back-up should one site not be able to operate for some reason.
"With COVID-19, the difficulty we have faced is that a number of these sites were impacted at the same time - resulting in a loss of staff working in contact centres."
The spokesman said the company had done "a number of things to help our customers and maintain customer service levels including bringing on board thousands of people in Australia to ramp up our domestic call centre workforce".
"We've also had hundreds of Telstra people from across the business volunteer to step out of their roles temporarily to help on the phones. It's been great to see the spirit of our people and that so many of them want to help our customers," he said.
It follows Wednesday's revelation that Australia Post had asked workers to volunteer their time and their vehicles to deliver parcels to customers and help clear the backlog caused by a spike in online shopping during Victoria's stage 4 restrictions.
The request came as executives reportedly awaited a combined $7 million in bonuses despite Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate confirming in March the executive team and board had agreed to take a 20 per cent cut in their salaries for "the months ahead" and to "forsake any right to a bonus payment for this year", representing a combined reduction in potential earnings of more than 50 per cent.
After hours of backlash, Australia Post chairman Lucio Di Bartolomeo declared on Wednesday afternoon that bonuses would not be paid after all.
"Today the Australia Post board determined that no short-term incentive (STI) payment would be made to the executive team for financial year 2020," he said.
"I have every confidence in the executive team and their commitment to excellent performance in the year ahead."
Originally published as Telstra begged workers to 'volunteer'