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Workers vent frustrations on web

AAP, Monday 14 February 2000, 3:04 PM

Australian workers have taken to the virtual water cooler to vent their frustrations with employers.

Dozens of websites have emerged in recent times allowing employees to swap gripes about bosses as well as hints for securing jobs with top firms.

Managers have also posted messages to these sites to quash staff rumours.

One of the most popular sites is New York-based vault.com, which has active noticeboards on about 400 employers, including some of the biggest companies in the world.

An example of a message posted to the site recently was this one from Andrew, a Telstra call centre employee.

I work in one of the call centres in Australia, the message read.

Telstra have managed to turn them into little more than factories, something out of the dark ages. Another company that could not give a (expletive) about the customers ... Respect from the top is zero ... If they offered redundancies in the call centres they would be maimed in the rush to get the hell out.

The most popular company message boards at vault.com involved the companies Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Goldman Sachs, Andersen Consulting, McKinsey Company, Metropolitan Life Insurance and Merrill Lynch.

One of the web's biggest search engine sites, Yahoo, also has a popular virtual water cooler in its clubs section.

The benefits of such open communication come at a price.

Companies in the United States have reportedly sued or fired some workers who revealed confidential information or whose gripes were potentially libellous.

US court cases have found that griping on the Internet did not constitute activities to improve working conditions, for which employees generally could not be sacked.

Employers have expressed concern that rumours posted on the web about their companies could cause unwarranted angst, not just among bosses but shareholders and stockbrokers, too.

However, the sites could have a positive aspect as a management tool. Managers could head off worker concerns, vented on the web, before they become too serious.