Telstra chief executive David Thodey has defended the use of offshore call-centre workers, as unions stage a protest at the telco's annual general meeting.
Unions representing Telstra workers have gathered at the AGM in Sydney to protest against what they say is an increasing trend of call-centre jobs being sent overseas.
Teresa Davison from the CPSU says there are now 10,000 overseas contractors working for Telstra.
"Given that Telstra has an $11 billion agreement with NBN, we think it's a great concern that a company like that can on the one hand can take billions of dollars of tax-payer money and on the other sack thousands of Australian workers," she said.
"There have been over 3,000 job cuts since the first of January alone."
But Mr Thodey said the size of the offshore workforce is being affected by more customers looking online for services.
He said 40 per cent of transactions were online last financial year, up from 30 per cent the previous year.
"This means that our contact-centre work is declining quickly and will continue to do so," he said.
"It's important to note that all of our centres, whether they are here or overseas, are held to the same standards of customer service, privacy and security information.
"It's unacceptable to have a poor conversation with any of our consultants due to language difficulties, whether they are based in Australia or overseas."
Mr Thodey was expected to give shareholders more detail on Telstra's discussions with the government about changes to the National Broadband Network.
But he opted against going into specifics.
"We will keep you informed if there are any changes, and act in your best interests," he said.
"In the meantime, we will continue to fulfil the obligations set out in the Definitive Agreements we signed in 2011."
Telstra's chairwoman, Catherine Livingston, said the Coalition's shift to a "fibre to the node" network could "result in the renegotiation of some aspects of our Definitive Agreements.
"In the meantime, Telstra will continue to fulfil the obligations set out for us in the existing agreements, and continue to work constructively with the Government and NBN Co. and in the best interests of our shareholders," she said.
Mr Thodey also said the cost of removing asbestos from cable pits will not have a serious impact on Telstra's finances.
Telstra suspended the removal of asbestos from the pits in July amid concern that subcontractors were not properly handling the substance.
The halt delayed the rollout of the National Broadband Network in some parts of the country, until Telstra restarted the asbestos removal in August.
Mr Thodey said there had been been a review of safety procedures.
"At the moment there's no material financial impact, but what we're really focussed on is actually making sure that our staff and the public and our contractors are kept safe," he said.
Telstra's share price climbed after the beginning of the AGM.
At 11:35am (AEDT), it had increased 1.2 per cent to $4.98.