By Lilia Guan
Anger over Telstra's decision to close a call centre in the Grafton area has the local council up in arms.
In early September Telstra announced its plans to axe up to 108 jobs at its call centre, located in Grafton, New South Wales.
Mayor of Clarence Valley, Richie Williamson, exclusively told Government News that at the next meeting of councils in the region, he would put forth a proposal to ditch Telstra as its telecommunications service provider if it decided to go ahead with the closure of its call centre.
Cr Williamson said the community within the Clarence Valley – which Grafton is a part of – was holding their breaths for a "positive result"
"We're having a good crack and a decent go at changing its mind," he said.
"Local government has spent many millions, if not hundreds of dollars with Telstra. We've been supporting it for a many number of years and spending millions of dollars with Telstra."
Cr Williamson said there were plenty of other telecommunication service providers for councils to choose from.
He said the job cuts would have a devastating effect on the regions economy as it would lead to a half per cent increase in unemployment, taking the regions unemployment figure to eight per cent .
"If Sydney's unemployment increased by half a percent governments at all levels will be screaming and making a big deal," Cr Williamson said.
"We're doing everything we can to ask Telstra to review its decision and try to make sure these jobs remain in the economy. The telco plans to move these jobs to Brisbane and Melbourne which will affect the regions economy."
The Mayor said Telstra had given employees the option of moving with the call centres, which could potentially lead to the closure of other businesses in the region.
"If workers take up that offer – and of those 108 employees they might have about 2.4 children per family, this would equal 200 children no longer attending the local primary school," he said.
"The closure of one call centre would also have a flow on affect on health and other businesses, as the local council we're very concerned."
Cr Williamson said the timing of the closure would further impact the community.
"The social impact of unemployment will be further felt because the centre will be closing before Christmas,'' he said.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), along with regional independent member of parliament, Rob Oakeshott and the Federal Member for Page, Janelle Saffin (ALP) have all joined Clarence Council to protest the call centre closure.
CPSU Assistant National Secretary, Louise Persse said Telstra's plan to close the Grafton call-centre was a slap in the face for the local community.
"But it is also a warning for other regional call-centres. If you applied the same logic Telstra is using to close Grafton, call-centres in Lismore,
Bathurst, Townsville, Moe and Ballarat would also be wound up," she said.
Telstra expects to make an announcement on the decision later today.
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