Category: Communications

MBIE investigation pending of Chorus UFB contractors

E tū understands the employment practices of Chorus’s contractors and subcontractors will be the subject of an inquiry by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

This follows cases of unpaid workers on a “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus subcontractor, UCG in Nelson – which Chorus subsequently put a stop to.

A second case involved a Nelson man who was paid $12 an hour – more than 20 percent less than the minimum wage – by Chorus subcontractor, Frontier Communications.

E tū has welcomed the inquiry, saying it comes as workers for another Chorus contractor come forward.

“Our understanding is, the news of this inquiry has seriously rattled Chorus which has instructed its contractors and subcontractors to make sure their house is in order,” says Joe.

“We’re very supportive of this investigation – we’ve been seeking this for months.”

In the latest cases to emerge, migrant cablers faced multiple breaches of their employment contracts. For the first few weeks, instead of wages they only received an allowance of about $150 per week. Then, money was deducted from their pay though they weren’t told why.  They also worked up to 80 hours a week, some of it unpaid, while some weeks there was no work at all.

“Chorus has said any labour abuses involving its contractors are isolated cases,” says Joe.

“We think it’s the tip of the iceberg, but we do know Chorus has moved swiftly to issue a warning to its contractors.

“We have said before that any inquiry needs to ensure strict confidentiality for any workers prepared to speak out about what’s happening. That’s the only way to find out just how widespread this exploitation is, and to protect the jobs of these vulnerable workers,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

Joe can put interested reporters in touch with two workers who are prepared to speak with media on condition of anonymity.

Time to call Chorus to account over contracting

E tū says Chorus must be called to account after revelations about the work practices at Frontier Communications – a subcontractor to Chorus UFB cabling contractor, Visionstream.

Former Frontier Communications worker, Wilem Brown of Nelson says he was expected to install UFB cables, despite receiving no training, and was only paid $12.00 an hour – less than the minimum wage.

E tū’s Communications Industry Coordinator Joe Gallagher says Wilem’s story should be sounding alarm bells.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Communications, Joe Gallagher says Wilem’s story should be sounding alarm bells.

“First of all, there’s the human cost here. Wilem thought his new job was the start of a new career as a cable technician. Instead he was exploited and now he’s out of a job,” says Joe.

“Secondly, we believe his story is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve also had the case of the so-called “volunteers” working for free for Chorus subcontractor, UCG.

“While both cases have come to light in Nelson, there are similar problems elsewhere. It is clear Chorus’s contracting model is broken,” he says.

Joe says Chorus is under-funding its contractors and it’s time something was done to preserve the integrity of the UFB installation programme.

“We need an industry framework which provides clear employment conditions, sound parameters for health and safety and delivers a good outcome for the consumer,” he says.

Joe says a Government inquiry is also needed into the installation standards for this critical infrastructure.

“The pyramid nature of contracting is insidious. The further you get away from the source, the harder it is to hold companies to account.  But Chorus needs to be called to account,” says Joe.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

 

E tū calls on Deputy PM to abandon harassment of journalists

The journalists’ union, E tū is calling on the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, to abandon his harassment of journalists who reported he had been overpaid New Zealand Superannuation.

Mr Peters has already gone to the High Court demanding Newshub journalist, Lloyd Burr and Newsroom co-editor, Tim Murphy provide their phone records, notes and documents related to the superannuation story which ran during the election campaign.

Newsroom reports he has now also told the High Court in Auckland he wants to be paid monetary damages by the two journalists.

E tū’s journalist representative, Brent Edwards says Mr Peters’ attacks on the journalists could have a chilling effect on New Zealand journalism.

The union is also deeply disturbed to find out that in his statement to the court, Mr Peters labelled Lloyd Burr a “National Party political activist”.

Brent says this attack is reprehensible and similar to attacks on journalists in countries like the Philippines, where press freedom and journalists’ safety is taken much less seriously by the Government there.

“As Foreign Minister, Mr Peters should uphold his obligation to support press freedom and journalists’ safety around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Brent.

“If Mr Peters continues to target journalists in New Zealand in an attempt to muzzle them, he does nothing for this country’s reputation abroad as a healthy democracy which values and supports press freedom.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Brent Edwards E tū journalist representative ph. 021 970 815.

 

UCG “volunteer” model for Chorus fibre optics build “completely unacceptable”

E tū says the so-called “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus fibre optics contractor, Universal Communications Group is a clear case of migrant exploitation.

E tū’s Communications Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says the union recently learned of the scheme through a UCG document advising its subcontractors of the rules around recruiting these “volunteers”.

“With what’s happened in Nelson, it’s obvious now that this was about exploiting migrants who were contracted to work for free. That’s disgraceful and unacceptable,” says Joe.

Joe says Chorus had no choice but to instruct UCG to scrap the scheme once someone blew the whistle.

However, he says the scheme is the inevitable outcome of Chorus’s determination to drive down the cost of its fibre optic installation programme.

“Chorus has driven the cost so low that experienced contractors like Downer have quit.  Skilled workers have been forced out and they’ve been replaced by inexperienced people, who will work for less or in this case, nothing at all.”

Joe is urging the Government to investigate the true state of the workforce rolling out this  critical infrastructure.

“This is government money so there should be transparency. We shouldn’t be seeing this type of exploitation of workers in New Zealand,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Communications Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 591 0015

TVNZ members disappointed with CEO salary increase

TVNZ members of the unions, E tū and the PSA today expressed disappointment that Chief Executive, Kevin Kenrick had accepted salary and bonuses which increased his pay by $500,000 whilst overseeing falling revenues at the state-owned broadcaster.

TVNZ’s net profit for the year declined 89 percent – from $12.7m in 2016 to just $1.4m.

The news of Mr Kenrick’s 16 percent pay rise came as members were presented with a 1 percent increase for the same financial year.

It also comes on the back of an incoming Labour-led government promising to address growing inequality in New Zealand.

This year, staff have been through restructuring which resulted in the loss of more newsroom jobs and other positions across the wider business, in an effort to cut costs to off-set revenue declines.

Union representatives said employees had risen to the challenge of continuing to deliver quality content with fewer resources.

But they considered the Chief Executive’s remuneration deeply cynical in light of a volatile media environment and where TVNZ staff have been offered a pay rise that doesn’t even keep pace with the cost of living.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior National Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

 

 

E tū acknowledges Vector as power industry Living Wage leader

E tū would like to congratulate Vector on joining the Living Wage Employer Accreditation programme and would encourage the firms in Vector’s supply chain to do likewise.

E tū Industry Coordinator Communications, Joe Gallagher says Vector’s decision is likely to lift the profile of the Living Wage within the power sector as well as influence other firms to also make the same commitment.

“We have members at Vector and this is recognition of how important the Living Wage is for working people.

“Vector has also committed to paying its contract cleaning staff the Living Wage when that contract comes up for renewal next year, and that’s to be applauded,” says Joe.

He says he also wants to see companies in Vector’s supply chain, which provide lines maintenance and other services, also embrace the Living Wage.

He says Vector is already speaking with its supply companies about this.

“We want to acknowledge Vector which has said they are already in conversation about this, and to encourage these suppliers to make the change.

“It’s important that large businesses recognise they can change the lives of their workers, including contract cleaners and Vector has proved this.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

Fairfax axe for sports reporters another blow to regional journalism

 

E tū says a proposal by Fairfax Media to axe its entire team of 11 regional sports and racing reporters sends the message that the regions don’t matter.

E tū Industry Coordinator Communications, Joe Gallagher says the proposal is also another step towards the dismantling of professional regional journalism.

The job losses apply to all regional Fairfax newsrooms and will significantly reduce regional sports coverage on the Stuff website and in regional newspapers.

Joe says it will be a blow for the journalists involved as well as the communities they serve if the proposal proceeds.

“It’s getting harder and harder to be a journalist in the regions as jobs disappear.  In some places, the local paper is now only published three times a week, and this latest move will mean the loss of local sports coverage as well,” says Joe.

“It’s another nail in the coffin of quality journalism with the loss of good jobs as well as professional reporting standards which best serve local communities.

“It’s an abandonment of the regions where sport is an incredibly important part of life, and it’s a major blow to keeping these communities informed.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

E tū commends NZ Post on Paxster safety moves

E tū says it welcomes the safety-first response by NZ Post to a problem with its fleet of Paxster vehicles, which are used to deliver mail and parcels.

NZ Post has pulled the Paxsters from the road after finding a fault with a component part of the vehicles’ shock absorbers.

This week NZ Post will be using alternative means of mail delivery while the vehicles are repaired.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says NZ Post has taken a precautionary approach to the problem to ensure workers are safe, which is to be applauded.

“The safety of workers is critical and it’s a big decision which will see some disruption to services, mostly in urban areas,” says Joe.

“We commend the board over its responsible approach to the issue.”

Joe says the union is engaging with NZ Post to ensure workers’ incomes are not affected and that service disruption is minimised.

ENDS

For more information, contact;

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015

Chorus enjoys profit as workers lose quality jobs

E tū says Chorus’s profit has been achieved at the expense of quality jobs and the integrity of ultrafast broadband (UFB) connections to homes and businesses.

The Chorus result coincides with cable company Broadspectrum announcing today it will exit its connection contracts in Hamilton, Christchurch, Nelson, Blenheim, Rotorua, Taupo, and Whakatane.

The move will affect 119 jobs, including 35 designers and about 50 technicians, with a net loss of about 65 jobs at this stage.

E tū Industry Coordinator Joe Gallagher says the connection contracts will be picked up by Australian company, Universal Communications Group (UCG), which uses an owner-operator model favoured by Chorus because it cuts costs and enhances their profits.

He expects most of the designers will find new jobs with Broadspectrum which will in future focus on laying UFB cables, as well as maintenance of the legacy copper network.

But he says it’s a different story for the technicians.

“UCG’s owner-operator model will effectively require the technicians to “buy” their new jobs.

“They’ll have to purchase their own vehicle and equipment, at great cost,” says Joe.

“In many cases, people will have to borrow the money for the equipment, but there is no guarantee of sufficient work to pay the bills and ensure a decent living,” he says.

“I think a lot of people will walk away because they can’t afford it.”

Joe says it’s likely much of the work will be picked up instead by unskilled migrants, with a resulting decline in the quality of home and business high-speed internet connections.

“That’s abundantly clear by the situation in Auckland where complaints about installations number in the hundreds,” says Joe.

Joe says the sub-contracting of the work is a direct result of Chorus refusing to properly fund companies like Broadspectrum to build and connect the UFB network.

“Chorus can wash its hands of any responsibility for this work by keeping contracts at arms-length, leaving companies like UCG to hammer down costs on their behalf.

“No one benefits here except Chorus.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015