Telstra is set to outline by the end of April a massive restructure of its workforce as it switches from the ageing copper network to the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Telstra group managing director of corporate affairs Tony Warren yesterday indicated that there may not be jobs at the telco for all of the thousands of technicians undergoing the retraining program.
"They will be retrained, and hopefully we will have positions for them," Warren told a joint parliamentary committee.
"If they are retrained and we don't have positions for them, then clearly they will have skills that will be valuable in the market.
"We'd obviously prefer the former, but at least we know that that they are going out into the employment market with the skills they need. We hope it eases the transition."
As part of Telstra's participation in the NBN, its customers will be taken off the copper network and migrated onto the NBN as it is rolled out across Australia.
This will reduce the number of staff needed for maintaining the copper network, Warren says.
A retraining fund deed (RFD), which details what funding the Federal Government will contribute to the retraining of Telstra staff over an eight-year timeframe, will be established.
The RFD's objective is to retrain specific employees, support the availability of an appropriately trained workforce for the NBN and to retrain Telstra staff facing redundancy due to the NBN, with $100 million of government money on the table.
Warren said that Telstra has highlighted about 6500 employees expected to be impacted as the copper network is shut down and customers moved onto the NBN fibre.
"As we migrate customers to the NBN and decommission our copper access network, the network maintenance task that we are currently doing will diminish, with consequences unfortunately for our workforce," he said.
Telstra hopes to offer as many as possible other roles in growing areas on the company, and Warren said that the $100 million only makes up a small proportion that Telstra would spend on learning, training and staff development over the NBN roll-out period.
He said that Telstra is keen to win contracts for the construction, installation and maintenance of the NBN, which would support its ability to retain staff.
Warren said Telstra would ensure that its customers, shareholders and employees are "protected" in the event of a change in government policy.
"Telstra has shown in the last couple of years that it is able to deal with the government policy of the day," he said.
Meanwhile, Warren said in response to a question that Telstra has no Chinese companies supplying equipment for its Australian operations, although one company from China is part of its Hong Kong business.
Telstra closed up one cent at $3.37.