Unfair Dismissal Vogt v Telstra
"Mr. Vogt is an agitator, without a doubt……(he) is entitled to be an agitator…It is an important case for that reason"
(Mark Irving, Barrister)
The Queen St. Site
In 1993 Mervyn commenced work with Telstra in a call centre as a contracted telemarketer.
There experienced management procedures which he considered abhorrent.
Employees called in at night to find out whether there was work the next day.
Cronyism was rife, managers were a clique.
Bullying and stand-over was common
Hot desking (wait till someone vacates a seat) was common
Staff were sacked over the phone and without reason.
Workstations were inadequate and without proper design
As a telemarketer Mervyn won awards as the top "cross" and "up" seller for the centre.
He tried to protect some colleagues and was transferred to another area.
This area was commercial sales
Building apparently part owned by RJ Hawke
Building unsuited to telemarketing
Work stations ill designed
MV complained that curtains were filthy and had strange things lurking in them
Managers and others without notice remotely listened to and recorded customer calls
Back to Queen St.
He returned to Queen St.later on a promotion in the area of product support
He then discovered that the centre had been set up staffed by agencies in order to try to destroy union influence in the thenTelecom.
He joined the union (CPSU).
It was discovered that the centre was paying the agencies millions for nothing.
1993 Negotiations with the Union resulted in the offer of permanency for staff.
Multi-Million dollar business offers torpedoed
MV privately visited Balkans, was instrumental in having Telecom Australia phone services restored to Macedonia
Returned with offers of Balkan business worth tens of Millions of dollars Frank Blount (CEO) office messed up, opportunity lost
Further offers of Business to Mervyn from CIS with potential for Multi Million profit ignored by Telstra Management opportunity lost
The National Telemarketing Centre(NTC) was spread over a number of sites and was then consolidated at Burwood Vic.
The NTC alone, not including billing, directory assistance etc. was at this time rated as 7th in the world in size and better than that in terms of complex operations.
Approached to be union rep by young colleagues who were having difficulties with food and rent due to pay errors by Telstra
MV discovered docs which showed more than 2000 pay errors in one year at NTC
First identification of Management use of Ignore, Deny and Cover-up (IDC) Syndrome.
MV fought for and won the ability to hold regular half hour union meetings in work time
Meetings were very successful and constructive
In late 1995 at request of members started a regular union newsletter called "Nighthawks Newsletter"
Nighthawks covered a number of issues and was carefully outspoken
Copies of Nighthawks were sent to Union HQ before publication. Frequently replies were delayed or not forthcoming
CPSU HQ was often seen by members to be in bed with management
Local CPSU branch was dominated by management supporters who also supported CPSU HQ
At Union elections Management gave time and support to its preferred candidates against MV but without success.
One manager was an ex CPSU official
One manager even gave a CV which contained statement that she had "mentored" CPSU at the site delegates
At the time Unions had agreement with management called the "Lorne Agreeement" for a "Consultative Approach" At Burwood there was a Consultative Committee (CC) which met monthly but could make no decisions
Advantages were workers at last got information that was not available before or after that
Management could hear worker opinions
MV justified monthly union meetings in work time arguing how could he represent opinions if could not get them
It would seem this only occurred at Burwood.
Question rises why did unions not follow this example elsewhere ?
Meetings and Nighthawks Newsletter gave feedback to staff on CC matters as well
Management did not like Newsletter, though they were offered space for comment or reply Management failed to do so.
For a communications company it went to extreme lengths to block interpersonal staff communication, or any group communications
Frequently managers would try to claim MV used Company equipment and materials They knew this was untrue MV had his own.
Centre manager with assistant manager got MV alone and made attack on him and the newsletter, claim made was MV using Telstra paper and equipment though they knew this to be false
Positioning to influence union events 1996
MV became concerned with what many believed to be failures of the CPSU officials to properly protect members
MV nominated for State Committee, President & Vice President
During campaign MV discovered areas which did not receive ballot papers
At Burwood MV found several supporters of the establishment with boxes full of Ballot papers still in their envelopes.
MV called Electoral Commission but did not formalize complaint as fellow unionists would have been charged and possibly jailed
Unknown and without funds for a postal campaign
MV won a position on State Committee, came within 1500 votes of becoming vice-president
Start of the Event
After a local meeting between management and staff, all others left 2 managers asked MV to stay behind. Accused MV again of using Corp equipment and supplies. MV pointed out they knew not so. Management stated they did not like it being distributed.
2 weeks later an email was sent to team leaders instructing them to gather the Newsletter from staff and shred it. There is no mention of any instruction not to produce or distribute
An example of free speech and democracy
Local union members at meeting unanimously endorse the Newsletter
"Please explain" from team leader
MV replied no basis for Please explain and that it was further evidence of discrimination against union delegate illegal under Industrial Relations Act
Continues to produce and circulate Newsletter
On four occasions meetings of staff members unanimously endorse the Nighthawks Newsletter.
April 1997 (9 months later)
MV makes submission to Senate Inquiry into Telstra
April 10th Notification that there would be an internal inquiry by Ms Ralston a Telstra manager from another area into the Newsletter matter and there were 5 charges listed
Under FOI MV obtained a copy of his discipline file. A document in that file from the office of Ralston contained a number of misstatements
Ralston Inquiry Procedural Unfairness
Ralston claimed to be a trained investigator for Telstra no evidence of such qualification was ever produced.
MV requested copies of the procedures to be followed by investigating officers and the copies of the Training Manuals. The request was refused at both State and Federal Levels of Telstra
MV was not given any copy of the rules or procedures of the inquiry
On 16th January 1995
Danita Lowes then National General Manager of NTC had stated rumours suggest that NTC will be closed and their work outsourced. The email went on to say it was untrue. And that "…… on a practical level the company would be crazy to build such a centre……..only to outsource it’s activities." The fact is that Telstra did not build the centre and Telstra did outsource many of its activities.
It appears that Kelly Simpson the floor manager concerned did not mention a later alleged diary entry of an instruction being given (of importance later)
MV recorded the interview between Ralston & himself.
In document dated June 5 Ralston found all charges proven and recommended dismissal
On June 4 Dr. Anne Diamond National Manager Personnel Services advised that Ralston had found all charges proven and MV was suspended from duty with pay forthwith.
The Five Charges
(no not my error there is nothing after the colon) ( I had never seen this policy which actually refers to official Telstra publications)
( I had never seen this policy which actually refers to official Telstra publications)
(unbelievable !! I have never signed the Code of Conduct , and I thought that was what democracy was all about )
(Whoppee what powerful printed words, eat your heart out Orson Wells)
all of the 5 charges were signed by Kelly Simpson
In the presence of a union official Mufatti MV was forced to leave the workplace.
Subsequently MV’s union cabinet was forced open and all materials removed
The smashed cabinet was later reportedly found at the desk of a team manager who had been observed trying to pick the lock of that cabinet.
From the charges it is clear that there were fundamental issues involved some of which were :
Telstra failed to give MV a copy of the investigating officer’s report. As there were only 14 days in which to appeal it could be seen as a delaying tactic
June 24 MV lodged Notice of Appeal
On the 28th August MV wrote to Robt Holland suggesting that he review his decision and requesting reconsideration in order to remove the need to take further action, without result
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