16 June 2021
Ref: SLD 21/20
Start of Day – Field based Telstra staff
A number of recent issues have surfaced regarding the Management’s interpretation of what they say you are supposed to be doing in the UNPAID time prior to paid start of day (and for that matter, End of Day). To make matters worse, the use of various technologies (e.g. GPS and Promis data) for surveillance of the worker is becoming the norm, and it is time to expose these management behaviours. The unfettered use of surveillance data from the GPS, combined with data matching of the Promis data, gives the Management incredible ability to surveil, bully, and intimidate individual workers. We have now reached a point where the focus is now not on doing the job properly, but on things like whether you have left the vehicle running waiting for a customer, to what time you decided to use a toilet. It has become totally out of control.
It would appear that a number of team leaders are spending inordinate amounts of their time drilling down into GPS surveillance data. We would have thought there were far more important roles for a team leader to undertake than to be spying on their staff, rather than letting those staff do what they are paid to do – provide a “delightful” outcome for the customer. What triggers these investigations is unclear, but there is some indication that it is beyond “reasonable management action”, and borders on a number of questionable actions, including bullying. The stress of having “Big Brother” oversighting your day to day work is leading to further stress in the workplace. And the added stress of an insecure future in an organisation that is self-destructing is not helpful to mental health, despite all the hollow rhetoric about the employer “caring” about your mental health.
In some instances it appears the motivation could be triggered by personal conflicts with the team leader. Clearly the job of a team leader should be to provide the worker with the tools, facilities and circumstances to competently complete the job – not to harass and stress the individual. It is becoming apparent that the latter appears to be the current modus operandi of a number of Team leaders.
To start with, let’s look at how we got here with “Start of Day”.
The “Commuter Use” arrangements coincided with the “Home Garaging” of Telstra vehicles about 20 years ago. Prior to home garaging, there was a simple, no fuss proposition – roll up to the depot and punch the time card and start the day in the depot and pick up the work vehicle, along with your first job. The worker was required to make their way to the depot in their own time and at their own expense. In the same way, the “end of day” required the individual to finish at the depot in paid time, and clock off. When the “Director” dispatch system was implemented, and with the closure of many of the depots, the pressure came on the workers to safely garage the vehicles in their driveways, and commence to log on at their house. The current EBA clause was written 20 years ago, but there are significant differences between then and now. For instance, the expectation on driving to the first job was based on allocation of the job to a geographical location measured by a “number of telephone exchanges”. The intent was to minimise travelling around the area, and the use of unpaid time by the boss, because you were typically allocated to a very close area to your home. The intent of the logging in (in unpaid time) 30 minutes prior to the start of paid time was simply to allow the Director dispatch system to catch up and allocate work to a geographically close job.
In accordance with the current EBA clause (and it hasn’t changed from 20 years ago) all you have to initially do in the 30 minutes of unpaid time before paid time start is to “commence to log on” no later than 30 minutes before paid start time (typically 7.30 am). All that is required in the UNPAID time following that is to TRAVEL (nothing more) without unnecessary delay to the first job. If it will take you less time than the time between getting your first job and the commencement of the paid time (e.g. 8 am), you do not have to start heading to the job that will get you there prior to your paid start time.
It does not require you to do any other work function in the unpaid time, be that picking up stores, contacting customers, filling up with fuel, remote testing of customers’ lines, etc. All of these work functions should be done in paid time, which means there may be claims on overtime for any work function performed before paid start time. If you identify that there is a requirement being placed on you to perform any other work function aside from “TRAVELLING” contact the Branch office to determine whether there is a possible overtime claim.
Lunch breaks – take them!
Discussions with members indicate that there is pressure on individuals not to take the lunch breaks as described in cl 16.1 of the EBA. It is absolutely clear – after no more than 5 hrs you must take a meal break of no less than 30 minutes. We have also been advised that the so called “lunch” button through the Promis system doesn’t allow a halt to work if you have commenced a job in some circumstances. It is a legal requirement in the EBA, so don’t be bullied into not taking your lunch break. Please advise the office if there is evidence that you are being pressured into working through your lunch break, and the matter will be taken up.
GPS Surveillance – gone way too far.
A number of recent investigations that Branch officials have been involved with indicate a major attempt to increase worker surveillance using both the GPS and the stats out of the Promis dispatch software.
This is a very worrying development and indicates the willingness and intent of Telstra field management to surveil staff to the level of unreasonable intrusiveness that was never originally envisioned, nor agreed to, at the time of introduction. Never forget that the GPS surveillance was “sold” by some management types as a “safety device” for remote, single person isolated workers, particularly to ensure the “duty of care” in relation to workplace safety (remember the “panic button” that never worked due to network coverage issues, and the incorrect argument knowing if the vehicle had been stolen whilst parked in the driveway/on the nature strip at your home!!!!). At the time, we all had a fair inkling of what it was to be used for, but that has been relatively restrained until now. We are clearly a long way from that original management position. In addition, the use of the GPS during times of unpaid work (i.e. start of day, end of day, lunch breaks etc.) prior to paid start time needs some legal analysis.
The use of this data in an unfettered, unrestrained and unreasonable way to simply “beat up” on the worker is yet another example of the depths to which this current field management group have lowered themselves. It simply breeds further hostility to these managers, who are clearly not there to help staff but to bully and intimidate workers in a last ditch attempt to obtain the last amount of productivity out of a workforce bearing the brunt of inept, incompetent management. Some would also argue that this is a very unsubtle attempt to reduce the workforce without paying out redundancies.
This is increasingly becoming a management pattern of behaviour that needs to be halted. No one wants the boss to be looking over your shoulder every second of the day, watching whether you are using the toilet, leaving the truck running while in a customer’s driveway awaiting their attendance, attending an exchange to have a break, picking up materials for the day, whether you are pressing the buttons on the tablet correctly, and using data to either select individuals for redundancy or to terminate them. The list goes on. Telstra management clearly should recognize that the best way to increase productivity is to have a workforce that is getting the job done despite all the difficulties, and is motivated to perform, not threatened, bullied and surveilled to perform.
If you feel that the boss is using GPS and Promis data as an unwarranted disciplinary weapon, contact the Branch office for advice on how to handle the unwarranted intrusion. This is particularly important at a time when there is a clear corporate focus on mental health in the workplace.
SUE RILEY JOHN ELLERY
Secretary Branch Industrial Organiser
Communication Workers Union Communication Workers Union