The federal government’s rejection of Telstra’s bid for the National Broadband Network is a bitter disappointment for thousands of workers at the telco, unions said today.

It shows the Telstra board and management is putting at risk jobs and future investment by playing politics.

ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons said the decision was not a surprise and came after unions had raised concerns about Telstra’s stance on the NBN tender.

“The exclusion of Telstra’s bid shows the approach taken by Telstra’s management and board has failed,” Mr Lyons said.

“Unions warned that Telstra’s aggressive approach to the NBN process would be counter-productive and put at risk billions of dollars of shareholders’ funds. Now our worst fears have been confirmed.

“It was the height of arrogance for Telstra to submit a non-compliant bid in the mistaken belief that it would be the only viable bidder for the project.

“The current board and management of Telstra have now jeopardised about $10 billion in shareholder value and many jobs that would have been created or maintained for the project.

“This uncompromising and hardline approach has now been proven to be flawed.

“The Telstra board and senior management must take full responsibility together for leading the company down this self-destructive path.

“It is time for Telstra management to stop playing politics on broadband and on industrial relations. Telstra management should instead adopt a co-operative attitude towards its stakeholders, including its staff.”

Industrial action at Telstra will escalate tomorrow when thousands of employees around Australia stop work to press the company to negotiate a new enterprise agreement.

“This is the first industrial action at Telstra for more than a decade. It shows that Telstra has lost its way under the current leadership,” Mr Lyons said.

There are 32,000 staff at Telstra. The Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU), Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) and Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) in conjunction with the ACTU are calling on Telstra management to re-enter negotiations over a new collective agreement and transition arrangements for staff on AWAs.