Mass redundancies confirmed for Australia Post

by Janie Smith11 Jun 2014
Telling 900 workers that their jobs will disappear during the next 12 months cannot have been an easy task for Australia Post’s HR department.

Australia Post has confirmed that the jobs will go as part of a transformation of the business, due to the drastic decline in letter volumes during the past five years.

Most of the job losses will affect managerial, administrative and support roles, many of which will be cut from the organisation’s head office in Melbourne.

Dealing with large-scale redundancies is a challenging process, one that Shaun Palmer dealt with during his time as CHRO of Xstrata Coal.

He worked for the company when it was taken over by Glencore and about 2,000 employees and full-time contractors were made redundant across the business.

It also involved shutting down the Queensland part of the operation to create a single Australian division.

Here are Palmer’s tips for negotiating the difficult waters of large-scale lay-offs.

Look to the future first

“Determine what you’re going to do after the change and what work is going to be done where,” Palmer told HC.
“I don’t think you can ever start a change process, particularly the kind of change Australia Post is talking about, until you define what work will be done where, what work will change and what work will no longer be done. Once you’ve done that, you can throw yourself into it.”
 
Communicate the rationale

Employees should be clearly told why the organisational change is happening, said Palmer.
“It’s absolutely essential that people understand when you’re looking at large scale redundancies, it’s not a result of performance, it’s not a result of their inadequacy, it’s a result of responding to circumstances.”
 
Provide regular communication

Keeping everyone up to date with the process is essential, beginning with broad communication to the whole group and following up with each department.
“I had meetings with each department, initially on a weekly basis and then any time a group or department wanted to meet, I met with them. I stayed up in Brisbane for the four months of that process.
“It’s important that the people heading the division were available, accountable, that they would speak to people on a regular basis,” he said.
 
Continue a positive relationship with outgoing employees

Xstrata Coal engaged placement services a month before the closure of the Queensland operation for employees who were going to be made redundant.
“It was based on giving people a head-start. If someone found a job, they would not forego the redundancy payments and as long as we had a handover and it could happen smoothly, they went with our best wishes.
“Part of the reason for that is that in the commodities business, someone you make redundant today is someone you will hire tomorrow. It’s absolutely essential that everyone involved is treated with respect and dignity,” said Palmer.
The division was also given a farewell function attended only by the employees so that they had a chance to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate their work, he said.

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had to make redundant at once?

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