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Telstra Xmas close down know your rights

At this time of year, the CWU often receives inquiries about Telstra’s ability to direct staff to take annual leave.

The latest example is a direction given to Customer Service Delivery employees in Parramatta, NSW, to take leave from the 22nd December to the 3rd January.

Telstra says CSD will be “shutting down” in Parramatta over this period.

When can you be directed to take leave?

Under the current Telstra Enterprise Agreement, Telstra may direct employees to take annual leave “if it is reasonable to do so”.  The EA gives two examples of when this might occur:

  • If Telstra is shutting down all or part of its business for a period
  • If an employee has accrued “excess” leave i.e. more than 6 weeks (7 for shift workers). But Telstra will leave you with at least 4 weeks leave (5 for shift workers).

These are examples only. They do not automatically meet the test of being “reasonable” which is required both by the EA and by the Fair Work Act. That will depend on the particular circumstances facing both Telstra and individual employees.

When is a shut down not a shut down?

In practice, in fact, the first case rarely occurs ..if ever.

Telstra is not a factory or a building site. It does not “shut down” its business or any section of its business entirely at any time. CSD, for instance, does not shut down. Customers continue to experience faults and Telstra has to rectify them all year round, in Parramatta and everywhere else.

Indeed, the very fact that Telstra managers are reportedly telling staff that they will simply be recalled if there is a need for them shows that Telstra is not “shutting down” at all.

In our view, there would be very few circumstances where Telstra could justifiably claim that it was shutting down a whole section of its business – as opposed, say, to maintaining a skeleton staff in some office situations.

The CWU does not believe that Telstra can direct you to take leave in these latter circumstances.

Contact your union branch.

That said, there may be times when it suits both Telstra and its employees to take leave, especially around public holiday periods.

In the CWU’s view, those arrangements should be arrived at in consultation with staff involved, taking into account individual employees’ circumstances – existing leave plans, family commitments and the like.

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