Category: Engineering and Infrastructure

Malaysian labour scam industry wake-up call

E tū is urging the construction industry to get its house in order after revelations of a scam involving undocumented Malaysian construction workers.

Union Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says the scam is symptomatic of how easy it is to lose control these days of just who is working on building sites.

“People are calling this third-tier subcontracting but actually, these are fourth-tier subcontractors and the situation is out of control.

“Construction firms have come to rely on them due to labour shortages, but they are a risk. Hundreds of these workers were here undocumented, with no monitoring of their pay and conditions, and probably no labour protection of any sort,” says Ron.

“This rort is a wake-up call for contractors and project managers to monitor their sites and their workforce properly. This industry needs to get its house in order.”

Ron says the situation strengthens the case for directly employing workers as well as providing standardised wages and training.

“If it applies to everyone, then there’s a level playing fields,” he says.

Ron says there are also obvious concerns about the exploitation by unscrupulous agents of visitor visa arrangements with Malaysia.

“You would have to worry that so many people could evade basic security checks by slipping into the country in this way, including using false names.”


For more information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055

Scale of Fletcher debacle “gobsmacking”

The construction union, E tū says it is working to clarify the effect of Fletcher Building and Interiors’ huge loss on its members at Fletchers as well as the wider industry.

“We’re still coming to terms with the fact that the country’s biggest building company is no longer bidding for new commercial projects which is just extraordinary,” says Ron Angel, E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure.

“We’re trying to confirm the facts of what happens next, but we will have members affected by this though it’s unclear yet how many,” he says.

Ron says union organisers had this morning visited Fletcher sites in Christchurch office, where members had been told to expect closure once work is finished on company projects including the city’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.

“In the immediate term, we’ll be looking to protect our members’ interests and we hope if there are redundancies that our members can be redeployed in other Fletcher divisions. Some will be entitled to redundancy pay; others won’t.”

Ron says the union had also spoken with members about the factors behind the near-$1 billion loss.

“In part, this is a result of too many people in head office doing the paperwork and pushing up overheads, and too few people on the ground doing the work,” says Ron.

He says a lack of experience in project management also meant a lot of mistakes especially on the Justice precinct project.

“Our members have told us that 50 percent of that project was built twice.

“The guys say they’d put stuff up and a week later they’d be pulling it down again because the design changed or there were design faults, cracked tiles and the like. And there was too little supervision, with no one taking responsibility for the quality of the work.”

Poor cost control had also been flagged by the division’s retiring Chair, Sir Ralph Norris.

Ron says the loss is “a salutary indictment of the sub-contracting model which is killing the construction industry in New Zealand.

“It means Fletchers has been unable to control costs and quality on these big projects and the result is just gobsmacking.”


For more information, contact:

Ron Angel E tū Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure ph. 027 591 0055



Disappointment as JNL confirms job losses

E tū is extremely disappointed with the confirmation today that Juken New Zealand Ltd (JNL) intends axing the jobs of about 90 workers at its East Coast mill in Gisborne.

E tū represents production workers at the mill.

E tū Engineering Industry Coordinator, Ron Angel says workers were expecting the worst when the proposal was first mooted late last month, “but it’s still a bitter blow,” he says.

“This is one of Gisborne’s biggest employers and the only significant wood manufacturer in the area. Many families have relied on the mill for their livelihood, and these job losses will mean hardship for some.”

Ron says E tū and FIRST Union, which also has members on site, are doing all they can for JNL’s workers who face an uncertain future.

“We are still waiting to hear who does and doesn’t have a job. Some have chosen voluntary redundancy, but others face a two-week wait to see how goes and who stays,” he says.

Ron says both unions have been working with JNL to manage the issues arising from the  restructure and the subsequent job losses.

“That work will continue as our members await certainty over their position,” he says.

Ron says there is redundancy pay, thanks to a union-negotiated redundancy agreement and both unions were working to ensure redundant workers received help with retraining, job search and the preparation of CVs.

He says there is some hope with the recent sale of the former Prime sawmill site, also in Gisborne, to Far East Sawmills, which hopes to offer jobs to about 60 people.

“That would obviously be welcome,” says Ron.


For further information, please contact:

Ron Angel Industry Coordinator, Engineering and Infrastructure E tū ph. 027 591 0055

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.


For more information, contact:

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

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.”


For further information, contact:

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