Telstra uses plastic bags and tape to fix phone lines

Telstra uses plastic bags and tape to fix phone lines

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Telcos, Telstra
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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."

Topics: Telcos, Telstra

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81 comments
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  • What more could one expect?

    This is typical of a company that does just about everything by halves.

    I am glad I am no longer a customer of Helstra but it is a shame that I still have to rely on their network for my otherwise excellent (read: RELIABLE and VALUE FOR MONEY) ADSL2 service with Spin Internet.
    anonymous
  • Credible little Article

    I can't understand the rationale behind posting this article. It sounds almost farcical.
    I am sure that ZDNet (or the AAP in this case), with all their journalistic integrity, requested interviews with someone at Telstra who is responsible for the quality of work that is done on their precious network, to get an explanation for this 'bagging and taping'. And furthermore, I am sure that many of the Sydney technicians were interviewed so it could be proven beyond doubt that these methods are how Telstra instructs them to waterproof the network.

    I doubt that such practises are condoned by the telco, and I certainly doubt that they are encouraged. But we won't let that get in the way of the story. Seems as though we all need an anti - telstra article every morning to go with our coffee...
    anonymous
  • Union BS

    The unions are scared of Telstra's desire to eliminate unions in the company and will say anything to rally support. I know this has happened a few times to seal cabling until the tech can return with the correct parts but this is not as they would want you to believe a standard or regular practice. They fix the line anyway the can with resources available in their trucks and return with the correct materials to make it permanent. If they carried every part they needed with them they would drive an 18 wheel truck.
    anonymous
  • Telstra Using Plastic bags for telephone repairs

    Doesn't surprise me at all.

    This is what you get when governments fail in their bid to privatise telcos properly.

    I was a Telstra Fanboy once, now I loathe the poor service, higher costs, and general overall poor customer service.

    Bagdad, well not quite but thanks to the politicians we are well on the way there.
    anonymous
  • You will

    "I can't understand the rationale behind posting this article. It sounds almost farcical."

    Next time you dial 000 and nothing happens you will understand the rationale quite well.

    I know for a fact that it is condoned because I know people who work and have worked for Telstra. There may well not be any video-taped evidence yet but that is just a matter of time.

    Look at how QANTAS maintains its planes now. There's no reason why Telstra wouldn't be taking a similar approach to save a few bob.
    anonymous
  • Keep reading Lord Watchdog

    If you read the next article LW, you will notice that a current Telstra tech gave a very reasonable explanation for this.
    Luckily for us all, when there is a water related problem, the techs take enough time to at least put something in place until it can fixed permanently.

    By the way, isn't Qantas one of the only, if not the only international airline that still hasn't had a fatal crash? Don't take my word for it, I am a mere blog reader and wouldn't want to appear as a subject matter expert.
    Unlike our Gracious Lord Watchdog, who has no hesitations in sharing his omniscience with us. Actually LW, would you be kind enough to share the call capture rate on 000 calls? It will no doubt add more gravity to your statements above.
    anonymous
  • "Lord" Watchdog

    We all know that watchdogs are only good for two things, barking at everything they don't recognise (or won't feed it) and producing lost and lots of s**t. So which do you do, bark constantly or crap everywhere?
    anonymous
  • No need

    If Telstra's current management regime had any idea of how to carry out maintenance activities (a field I have been employed in for around 20 years) then they'd know that having the correct spare parts in stock and on hand in case of an emergency or preventative maintenance activity being carried out.

    Placing plastic bags over electrical connections DOES NOTHING to solve any problems that may arise and before you shoot your mouth off again, yes I AM appropriately qualified and experienced enough to call this a professional opinion, unlike you who merely admits to being a blog reader.

    So in future take more notice of professional opinions instead of Helstra's commercially-motivated propaganda.
    anonymous
  • And the lies spew forth.

    You people are beyond pathetic. I call on Sol and the powers that be at Telstra to unleash a barrage of serious competition upon the anti Telstra (anti Australian?) campaigners that will send you all down a gigantic whirlpool to the regions of abject poverty.

    How any self-respecting Australian Telstra worker could suffer this rubbish and not expose the childish light-weight lunacy for the silly beat-up fabrication it is surprises me. Those who wish to damage Telstra for their own devious advantage will fail miserably, and soon.
    anonymous
  • In 20 years have you ever not had the right parts in your truck?

    What did you do? leave the fault as is or find a temporary fix and came back as soon as practical with the correct parts, I worked as a PMG / telecom / telstra technician from 1963 until 2002 and encountered these types of issues almost every week for close to 40 years so don't pretend your expert opinion is the only opinion. You also never say anything positive about Telstra in all of your professional posts on various sites and only pop up when you think you can have another shot at them.
    anonymous
  • smoking crack

    anti australian?

    get off the crack pipe
    anonymous
  • Yeah right!

    I have to laugh at you Tel$tra supporters trying to spin out of this.

    Tel$tra has been screwing money out of people for many happy years. Now it has bitten them on the behind. So is this what people pay their line rentals fee for? This kind of half arsed repairs?. For an "Australian" company that holds so much "American" type of work ethics. Tel$tra your a crock of a company and you deserve to get bitten largely.
    anonymous
  • Finally...the truth comes to light

    We have seen Telstra cable run across sheep fences, across the ground, through open flooded pits etc etc. Why should a plastic bag water seal be any different?

    Not overly surprised to be honest.
    anonymous
  • heh

    Unlike Telstra I don't allow anything I own to fall into disrepair. Your point about improvisation is moot since it is irrelevant to the article. Getting one's self out of trouble is a bit different to what we are talking about here. Let's compare apples to apples shall we...

    As for my opinion, I never mentioned it being the only one. I simply said to the person I replied to that qualifications and experience amount to more than a blog reader. That said, you will notice that I am not the only one in this thread that disapproves of Telstra's maintenance standards. You say you worked for Telstra until 2002 - did they give you the big A like 12,000 others that your mate Sol is getting rid of or did you leave of your own accord?

    The reason I ask is because if you were still working for Telstra you may not have ended up having a say in the matter. If Sol can't stomach keeping 12,000 people on his payroll then he's hardly likely to ask the remaining workers to employ the same attention to detail that has been applied in the past. Correct or not?

    "You also never say anything positive about Telstra"

    When they do something positive for their customers, and the nation as a whole, I will be only too pleased to give them the due credit. I don't endorse crap and that is why Telstra scores badly with my current appraisal of the situation. If that is too much for you to bear then you are frequenting the wrong websites. Maybe the Women's Weekly is more your style.
    anonymous
  • Damage?

    Sydney Lawrence,

    Telstra seems to go out of their way to damage themselves. Telstra doesn't need any help with that and it is only the narrow-minded and ignorant that do not see it.

    As for your comment about "Australian Telstra Workers" before long there won't be any left. Telstra seems to favour contracting out their operations to companies in Bombay rather than Sydney or Melbourne.

    As I said in reply to another post here, I would support any positive moves made by Telstra in their dealings with customers and rollouts of new products but their agenda is currently to put people out of work, rollout new infrastructure in a haphazard way, charge the earth and mars for it and then disclaim any responsibility when things go horribly wrong.

    I am not paying good money for that and there is no reason why anyone should.
    anonymous
  • Why do any more when there is no return

    Everyone keeps commenting on outsourcing, cost cutting and lining pockets but has anyone stopped to consider that the actual return of Telstra's investment in copper is diminishing? The ACCC is mandating Telstra provides copper services to competitors for under $100 per annum and in many cases under $50 per annum.

    The cost to maintain lines at the highest standards everyone expects means upgrading the copper, upgrading the pits, training technicians, equipping vans with start of the art equipment and spare supplies, maintaining exchanges, staffing call centers and all at a time inflation is adding to the burden.

    If Telstra was making a killing in profits I would understand it but Telstra's profit growth has been non-existent for the past decade (below CPI on average). You are all expecting Telstra to act as a benevolent orginisation and be everything to everyone without delivering a reasonable return to shareholders.

    No company will invest in an a section of their business if there is no expectation of returns let alone if the investment will actually result in the competitors benefiting and a reduction in returns elsewhere.

    Instead of everyone simply name calling why don't you suggest something that would work for the consumer, the company and most importantly for the entire country.
    anonymous
  • American work ethics?

    Is this the new catch phrase now that the CEO is a US Import, will this change to British work ethics if we ever get a CEO from the UK? The board is still 100% Australian, the staff are Australian and in many cases were employed by the company when they were still called Telecom and 100% government owned. Once again someone wants to post a comment simply to get their name published and has nothing read to add.

    There is not one employee that has direct contact with the consumer that works outside of Australia so when some of you talk about outsourcing to India get your facts straight.
    anonymous
  • Copper Line Problems not Just NSW

    I live in South Yarra, Melbourne. Over the last 4 months I have seen 6 separate times whenTelstra techs have been lurking around my street doing inspections and performing band aid repairs to the copper lines in my street.

    I was myself was without internet and home phone for nearly 2 weeks in Dec. I made 4 complaints to my non- Telstra provider. The first 3 times Telstra responded to them by saying it was not a line fault and on the 4 they finally sent someone to find copper line eroded from the street to just before it terminated at my prop. Telstra even tried to bill me but I told my ISP that I was refusing to pay and would go to the TIO. Telstra backed down. I actually chatted to the tech who came out and he said the whole street and nearly every other street in South Yarra between Punt rd and St Kilda road needs to redone as the copper lines in some of the streets are over 40 yrs old which in it self is not to bad but due to water damage and the oxidising minerals in the soil which wash on the copper and the age combined its really just big mess.

    This guy was actually a Telstra employee with 25 years experience but he did not expect to have his job after xmas as he was refusing to sign an EBA which based stripped him of a lot of benefits making no better of then a sub contractor.

    The issues in my area a widely known by Telstra yet nothing is done, back in the good old days it would have been one call to a group called NDC and the street would have done in a week

    I live 1km metres from the South Yarra exchange which in theory should mean I get up to the full 24mbit on adsl2, but my line is synced at 11mbit bit because anything after that makes it too unstable and packet loss is out of control I was told this is in part due to the type of copper as it’s a thicker gage and has more resistance then the modern stuff. It was only ever designed to take analogue phone calls. 6 yrs ago I paid over $300 to have the copper lines upgraded from the street into my house with broad band in mind. Clearly Telstra should have picked up where I left off and replaced the line from the street to the exchange

    Wireless is faster for me then adsl2. Telstra has been run into the ground. That mexican should be focusing on the company he directs and not spending his time pissing on and pissing off public servents that will be around long after he has got back on the plane with a nice payout
    anonymous
  • Jilted

    Here's the real reason Lord Watchdog bags Telstra.

    He use to be an IRC (chat) boy with them until he got kicked off the network for harrassment. Before this he licked everyone's behind even remotely associated with Telstra IRC.

    Now he's been spurned and dishes out criticism against Telstra at every opportunity.
    anonymous
  • Sounds familiar

    My line developed a fault a few months ago. Voice died and DSL quality/speed went way down.
    A T$ contractor arrived within 24 hrs (on a Sunday!) thanks to priority assistance.

    At first glance he said, "oh that pit's got problems". He showed me how the 50 pair cable feeding my area had been slashed at some stage in preceding 10 years and had been wrapped with plastic wrap and electrical tape.

    He found the fault was where my line (one that was slashed) went into a scotch lok which was inside this wrapping. When the lok was wiggled the line just broke off. Corroded thanks to water permeating the "waterproofing".

    His sig on the "pride tag" on the joining "bubble" in that pit showed he was the last one in there 2 years ago. He said he would have reported the issue at the time but unless another tech reported the same issue within 12 months the request for a permanent fix would lapse.

    This indicates that T$ has a policy of not acting on problems unless its affecting more than one customer.

    It's becoming clear that T$ want copper to die so they can push Next-G and FTTH to exclude other players.
    anonymous