Did Telstra ask for clean-up volunteers?

Telstra's main union has accused the telco of asking for "volunteers" to help clean up its telephone exchanges on a Saturday, while at the same time conducting a strike tomorrow that will interrupt Telstra customers.

update Telstra's main union has accused the telco of asking for "volunteers" to help clean up its telephone exchanges on a Saturday, with a BBQ lunch to be supplied and family invited.

A statement posted by the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) on its site claimed that Telstra network executive Michael Rocca — who was yesterday promoted to acting chief operations officer — had sent a letter and an SMS message to staff requesting volunteers for the clean-up effort.

The union claimed the SMS message was as follows:

Volunteers are sort [sic] for a cleanup exchange day, 5 December a Saturday morning. Exchanges to be cleaned are yet to be nominated, BBQ for lunch supplied. Family members are also invited. If interested call/SMS me by 10AM this Friday.

A spokesperson for Telstra said the workers would be paid overtime for the Saturday work, which is part of the telco's so-called Exchange Maintenance Program, which will this weekend hit over 200 telephone exchanges. Eventually the telco hopes to get to over 5,000.

"The maintenance will involve mowing lawns, painting walls, removing graffiti and conducting other general repairs in community-based exchanges," said the spokesperson.

CEPU branch secretary Len Cooper had earlier said in the union's statement that the telco's request was ridiculous, although it was not clear whether the union was aware that the workers would be paid overtime for volunteering.

"Members are outraged and it's making management laughing stock," Victorian branch secretary Len Cooper told ZDNet.com.au. "It's particularly bad at a time when management is in conflict over the pay rise they're offering and want [workers] to accept. People are pretty outraged."

Cooper said Rocca had not responded to the union's call to not volunteer and advised Telstra staff to "tell management to forget it".

"This is the Telstra equivalent of funding the armed forces through cake stalls and charity tea parties, isn't it? This has got to be an early April fool's joke?" he asked.

"Pay for work done out of Telstra's near record profits and this time get it done properly and regularly, and then you won't have a problem," he said.

The union accusation comes as the CEPU has recently revealed plans to re-commence industrial action within Telstra tomorrow, as part of a protracted struggle with the telco which has gone on for more than a year. The union is expecting 10,000 CEPU members Australia-wide to strike tomorrow, said Cooper.

"Undoubtedly there will be interruptions to Telstra customers — because it will be the people that do maintenance on IP networks for corporate clients, intra- and inter-state transmission links and EFTPOS networks."