The union representing embattled Telstra workers has attacked CEO Andy Penn’s “exorbitant” $5-million-dollar paycheque following a year of mass lay-offs.
Ahead of Telstra’s annual general meeting (AGM) on 15 October, the Communication, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia's communications division urged shareholders to vote down the telco’s remuneration report and Penn’s 34 per cent pay rise.
The union, which is embroiled in a long-running pay row with Telstra bosses, claimed the rise was “outrageous” given the telco’s decision to axe 6,000 roles in the last financial year.
“Andy Penn continues to bolster his own pay packet whilst overseeing one of the biggest axings of jobs in Australian corporate history,” CEPU national president Shane Murphy said in a statement.
“We know that Telstra customers are regularly left stranded without help because Telstra are too focused on cost-cutting and axing jobs,” he added. “Telstra should be investing in jobs and reliable services – not investing in the CEO’s pay packet.”
The row between the Australian telco giant and CEPU first began in February 2019, after Telstra announced its intention to axe 8,000 jobs by 2022.
Amid this, 1,500 members of Telstra union members voted to strike over the job losses, the tabled 1.5 per cent pay rise per year for workers and the outsourcing of jobs to an ‘Innovation and Capability Centre’ in Bangalore.
More than 6,000 people were let go by 30 June 2019, with the projected number of total redundancies rising to 9,500 by 2022.
In an address to shareholders ahead of the AGM today, chairman John Mullen defended the planned remuneration package as necessary to attract “overseas and Australian” executives to Telstra away from well-paid jobs.
“We believe that Telstra management has performed excellently this year and we are fortunate that the last 12 months have also seen Telstra’s share price rise materially and outperform the market,” he said.
“The remuneration that Andy has actually received fell by almost 50 per cent over the previous two years because Telstra was under pressure from a number of external factors over which Andy had little control, including the impact of the NBN headwinds,” he added. “Even with the rise this year, therefore, the total remuneration he received is still more than 20 per cent below where he was three years ago.”
Last year, shareholders voted against Telstra executives’ pay rises in a move that was welcomed by CEPU.
In its statement, the union again warned of the so-called "two strike" rule, which means if more than 25 per cent of investors vote against a company's proposed remuneration report at consecutive annual meetings, then the entire board faces a spill motion, or a call for re-election.