Communications giant Telstra is laying off around 650 staff across the country today.
Telstra is cutting staff in Sydney and Melbourne from the Sensis business arm of its operations which is responsible for the once popular Yellow Pages, White Pages and Trading Post print publications.
These once-common household directories have been struggling for some years with competition from digital competitors and online advertising.
Sensis Managing Director John Allan confirmed the proposed restructure would include the establishment of a new digital Customer Management Centre with 50 new roles, but is likely to result in an overall reduction of approximately 648 positions nationally.
Those positions are expected to include around 391 back of house fulfilment and customer care roles which will be outsourced.
Sensis currently employs approximately 3500 staff.
“Until now we have been operating with an outdated print-based model – this is no longer sustainable for us. As we have made clear in the past, we will continue to produce Yellow and White Pages books to meet the needs of customers and advertisers who rely on the printed directories, but our future is online and mobile where the vast majority of search and directory business takes place,” Mr Allan said.
“Already, more than 60% of our customers now are advertising online and in mobile apps, while our White and Yellow Pages digital services received 18.4m visits in January 2013.
“We need to simplify our operation and invest in areas that make us more efficient, and meet our customers’ growing demand for online and mobile services.
“While these decisions are never easy, they are designed to position the company for future digital growth,” Mr Allan said.
Last week, Sensis reported a 12.6 per cent drop in sales for the first half of the financial year, with print revenues facing the brunt of the impact, although digital revenues were up.
'Sensis staff deserve to be treated better'
The Community and Public Sector Union strongly condemns Sensis’ move to sack hundreds of workers at the directories company.
“Sensis staff have been crushed by the scale of these cuts for a company that is part of Telstra which earlier this month posted record half year profits of $1.6 billion," CPSU National President Michael Tull said.
“Sensis staff are hard-working and have done everything they can do to improve the health of this company, so they deserve to be treated better. We will be working very hard to ensure that members get their full rights and entitlements during the process and we will be asking Sensis to make sure that they talk to staff about redeployment across Telstra.”
This is dreadful: Gillard
Earlier this morning, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard responded to those reports on DMG Radio in Adelaide.
"That's dreadful news, really dreadful news, particularly for the staff members who are hearing that today," she said.
"It's always incredibly tough when someone loses a job.
That's why we do so much to try and make sure that there are job opportunities in our nation, because you need a job to build a life for you and your family."
Earlier this year, the telecommunications giant reported an 8.8 per cent rise in first-half net profit to $1.6 billion (after tax).