Coronavirus response sees Telstra pause job cuts for six months

Telco to hire 1,000 temporary call centre workers in Australia and bring forward AU$500 million of 5G network spend.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Telstra CEO Andy Penn with a mmWave hotspot

Image: Telstra

Australian telco Telstra said on Friday it would make a number of changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

CEO Andy Penn said the telco would pause job cuts for the next six months -- under the telco's T22 plan, it has previously ended the employment of thousands of workers -- and will be recruiting an extra 1,000 temporary call centre workers in Australia. Earlier this week, Telstra said its Filipino call centre had been shut down due to measures taken by Manilla.

The company is also shifting AU$500 million of capital expenditure slated for the second half of the next fiscal year into the calendar 2020 year.

"This capital will be deployed to increase capacity in our network, including further accelerating the rollout of 5G and injecting much needed investment into the economy at this time," Telstra said.

Telstra is also suspending late payment fees and disconnections until the end of April, which is when the decision will be re-examined, and the company has also committed to re-signing any sponsorship agreements it already has for another year.

"COVID-19 is having a profound impact on business across the country. At Telstra we already have more than 25,000 people successfully working from home, and we are supporting many of our customers as they grapple with shifting to working and studying from home," Penn said.

"It is at times like these that big business can show leadership and make a contribution to the national response and that is what we at Telstra are doing."

In fiscal terms, the company said it would pay AU$951 million via its interim dividend next week and shift its guidance to the bottom end of projections, with growth in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation now in a band from AU$0 to AU$500 million.

"We know there will likely be more impacts for us from a financial perspective through this unprecedented period," Penn added.

"In the meantime, it is in all of our interests to do whatever we can to collectively come through this unprecedented national challenge as well as we can."

Earlier this week, Telstra made all of its home broadband plans unlimited in response to coronavirus.

Mobile customers can gain an extra 25GB if they are postpaid customers, while prepaid customers that complete a recharge of over AU$40 will get 10GB of extra data. Telstra mobile customers will need to "apply for extra data" on the telco's 24×7 and My Telstra apps after Thursday. Customers will have until the end of the month to receive the extra mobile data.

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