Up to 150 AGL staff in Canberra have been told to relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide or accept redundancies. Photo: Gabriele Charotte
Up to 150 AGL call-centre staff in Canberra, including senior people, have been told to relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide or accept redundancies.
The shock announcement at 1pm on Tuesday was greeted with tears and stunned silence.
All staff on two levels of the old ActewAGL building in London Circuit were told to log off from their phones and work stations and move to the nearby Waldorf Apartment Hotel. Some were in the middle of calls and were delayed.
''We had to wait for about 20 minutes until every single employee was in the room,'' a staff member said. ''We all knew. We could see it on higher-up management, we could see it on their faces. We weren't going to be walking out of there with an ongoing job.
''Everyone was quite upset and just shocked.''
An AGL spokeswoman said consolidating call centres from three to two locations followed a routine review of the company's business structure and increasing industry challenges.
''As a result, AGL is proposing to close the Canberra call centre. In such a situation, impacted employees would be offered the opportunity to relocate to AGL's Melbourne or Adelaide call centres along with generous relocation packages and in ensuing weeks AGL would hold talks with all employees to discuss their individual
circumstances,'' the company's statement said.
Canberra staff answer calls from throughout Australia, including a small number from Canberra.
ActewAGL chief executive Michael Costello said the decision was taken by AGL. ''This decision has nothing to do with ActewAGL,'' he said in a statement.
But workers say the joint venture utility partners are overlooking a deal struck by the ACT government's ACTEW in 2000, after it merged with the national energy company AGL. The deal was to employ more Canberra staff, which led to the closure of a call centre in Sydney.
The staff member quoted earlier said: ''Going back early 2000, when the market became contestable, they were to employ Canberra staff and a call centre in Sydney closed and they increased the staff in [this] centre.
''Basically ACTEW had said [to AGL], 'You need to have more on the table for us, we are very big about community, we want to bring more jobs into the area for the community.'''
A woman at Tuesday's announcement said staff were offered $5000 to help relocate to either Melbourne or Adelaide.
Staff in Adelaide are reportedly paid $12,000 less than their Canberra counterparts, and Melbourne's staff are on about $8000 less.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher described the decision as very disappointing. She sought assurances that all assistance for staff would be provided as AGL transferred its operations.
''It is important to note that this does not affect the ActewAGL call centre,'' Ms Gallagher said. ''The ACT government will work with relevant parties to promote opportunities here in Canberra in the public and private sector where possible. ''
In January ActewAGL lost a major contract to supply the ACT government electricity. The government awarded a significant contract to Queensland's ERM Power Retail.
This week ActewAGL said it was withdrawing sponsorship of Floriade and Canberra Cavalry baseball team, the national champions.
Mr Costello said the decisions were taken as part of a normal review and were not about scaling back the amount of money spent on sponsorships.