Telecom NZ engineers strike

Telecom NZ engineers strike

Summary: Industrial action by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) in New Zealand has seen over a hundred engineers on Auckland's North Shore walk out of their jobs in a lightning strike.


Industrial action by the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) in New Zealand has seen over a hundred engineers on Auckland's North Shore walk out of their jobs in a lightning strike.

The union says the strike action is in protest over Telecom New Zealand's move to make engineers in the most populous part of the country become what it calls dependent contractors.

The striking workers are employed by Telecom contractor Transfield, and cover Auckland's North Shore region, where telecommunications products and services provisioning could be delayed indefinitely as a result.

Behind the strike is Telecom New Zealand's controversial decision to award Australian company Visionstream the contract for its network infrastructure in Auckland and the northern parts of the country.

Downers EDI and Transfield held the contracts for the area previously, but as they lost these, the engineers they employed were issued redundancy notices. Visionstream has said it wants to retain the engineers, but as owner-operators running their own businesses as self-employed contractors.

The decision affects some 900 engineers, who will be required to buy or lease their own vans and tools, costing at least NZ$20,000.

The union has termed that offer as forcing former employees to buy back their jobs, and says it will lead to much lower earnings and increased responsibilities for its members. Supporting the union's claims, a report prepared for some of its members by tax consultants Acura Accountants Ltd in Kerikeri, shows that engineers taking up the owner-operator option may see their income drop by between a half and two-thirds.

Acura said: "It is possible that some contractors will be unable to complete the required jobs to earn even minimum wage." By law, the New Zealand minimum wage for adults is NZ$12.50 an hour.

An example given to by a contractor states a typical fault job outside the main cities would pay a flat rate of NZ$65. Resolving the fault would entail four hours of work digging up underground cables. If more than one contractor was required for the job, s/he would have to share the NZ$65. Costs incurred include fuel and materials.

Telecom Chorus spokesman Robin Kelly referred to a letter by Visionstream general manager Andrew Stevens, that refuted the Acura claims. According to Stevens, Acura used the wrong price codes, didn't include allowances for time and materials, and made erroneous assumptions as to productivity levels by contractors.

Acura also failed to take into consideration back office support, Stevens said, as well as start-up grants, non-exclusivity of agreements and other benefits and training.

Opposition Labour party MP Clare Curran attacked the decision to turn formerly employed engineers into owner-operators, saying it will jeopardise the ruling National Party's NZ$1.5 billion fibre-to-the premises broadband plan.

Curran said she had received a steady stream of letters and emails from technicians with decades of experience fearing that they will be forced out of the industry by Telecom's decision.

There may be more industrial action to come: EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said "our members have had a gutsful of Telecom. They are determined to fight back with sporadic strike actions around the country over the next few weeks."

Monday and Tuesday this week saw a two-day strike in Northland by Downer EDI workers, which followed national strike action by Transfield employees a week and a half ago.

Topics: New Zealand, Telcos, IT Employment

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  • This article

    We (The Techs on strike) need to contact Australian contractors urgently to discuss their experience with Visionstream. Please email us on:
    Thank you!
  • Telecom

    Chorus giving this contract to Visionstream is the biggest charade ever pulled. Downer and Transfield must have been in the "loop" as it is strange how restoration dispatch shifted to Christchurch with regards to Transfield and both Auckland and Wellington Dispatch closing. They would have all gained a massive bonus or a free overseas trip for keeping it quite and then the big annoucement about Visionstream getting the Northern patches but by then all was in place to let it happen!! They are all in bed together and it is high time the smile was wiped from their faces!!!!! A government inquiry is what is required as the corrupt practices will continue unless exposed. So blatant are they that now you have to basically buy your own job while they gather bonuses that only we who carrying the shovels , do the work should have had filter down to us in any democratic society. The fight has just begun!!!!
  • stand beside

    to all you aussies,this visionstream,downers and transfield telecommunication contractors are australian owned are ruining our country and it is going to stop.stop now.we have had a gut full of this crap and nows the time for decent aussies to sell their shares in those companies.sell now or we in nz will run them out.
  • This article

    Telecom drove the prices of the contracts down when Downer/ Transfield/ GDC were bidding for patches. Transfield( Areva) undercut everyone and had rediculously low prices.
    Then they spat the dummy becuse they were losing money. They threatened to walk away. Downer became the big dog and was in a strong bargaining position. Chorus/Telecom lost control of their network. Downer and to a lesser degree Transfield held too much power.
    This is why I believe they brought in Visionstream. To take back control.
    They, Telecom, created the Transfield problem and now I am being made to pay by losing all my conditions. I will be a slave to Visionstream and Chorus for what reason? Because telecom stuffed up.
    Yes once again the poor guy at the bottom of the heap who just wants to feed his family and maybe enjoy a little bit of a life style suffers.
    Do they even care? To quote a well known NZ beer advert: "YEAH RIGHT"
  • visionfield/telecom/chorus

    ive been in the industry 40 years.telecom is a bastard of a s get paid hundres of thousands of dollars and they treat the workers like shit.this visionstream deal is a complete ripoff.dont sign,you will have that much debt you will have to stay with them.they dont have a workforce stay stong and we will see these scum depart our shores.give them hell whenever you see them.when they leave we dont want these managers that signed up with them either.they should be standing beside us.