update Plastic bags and tape are being used to waterproof phone lines across Sydney, as a union blames Telstra's move to slash thousands of technicians' jobs.
The remaining workers have resorted to using temporary patch-up measures as they try to cope with a surge in phone-line faults, the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) said today.
"These rising volumes of faults are caused by Telstra's ongoing program of retrenching skilled communications technicians and major cutbacks to the maintenance of Telstra's copper cable network," union assistant secretary Steve Dodd told News Limited newspapers.
The use of plastic bags to waterproof phone lines in underground footpath boxes was so widespread that some areas of Sydney were referred to as "Baghdad" by Telstra technicians, the newspapers said.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the number of faults rose to over 5,000 during the rainy period in mid-January, compared to around 1,000 for an average week.
The increase in faults comes against a background of workforce reductions as part of Telstra's five-year plan to revamp its networks and services.
"Hundreds of skilled communications technicians have been made redundant in Sydney over the past 18 months following Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo's announcement in 2005 to reduce its workforce by 12,000," Dodd added.
Half of the job cuts are expected to be completed by this year, with the remainder scheduled to be completed by 2010.
A Telstra spokesperson said the higher than average number of faults was a result of the severe storms earlier this month, adding: -Telstra's infrastructure is highly electrical in nature and often located underground, and therefore is vulnerable to storms and flooding. Some of our network is currently under water, making it impossible and dangerous for our people to access and fix the damage.
"When it is safe for our technicians to enter, our first priority is always to restore our customers' services as quickly as possible, and sometimes this does mean implementing a temporary fix until a more permanent fix can be applied."