Telecom admits industrial action causing significant delays
Telecom has conceded for the first time that some customers are suffering major delays as a result of the EPMU-lead industrial action against owner-operator contracts being offered to lines engineers.
Chorus spokesman Robin Kelly today told NBR that some Telecom customers, especially is Northland, had experienced significant downtime and connectivity issues.
Mr Kelly said this was due to the backlog of work created during EPMU’s industrial action, which has included a series of strikes plus a so-called "broadband ban" on provisioning new internet connections, or servicing existing accounts.
The backlog is now being cleared, thanks in part to Chorus' new contractor, Visionstream, putting a number of owner-operators to work ahead of its October 1 deadline. But certain customers many have to wait three weeks to a month.
Chorus has previously stated that the backlog is three or four days (on top of the usual 24 hours), while the EPMU has insisted that some are waiting weeks for phone line or broadband fixes.
Meanwhile, in the latest development in the dispute today, a small group of line engineers recently made redundant protested outside of Telecom’s head office in Auckland this morning.
Around 200 engineers lost their jobs two weeks ago when Visionstream won the contract ahead of Downer EDI Engineering and Transfield to manage Telecom’s line in Auckland and Northland.
EPMU communications advisor Rob Egan said the line engineers were offered work with Visionstream as depended contractors, which means the workers would need to buy their own vans, pay for their own insurance and would no longer be waged workers entitled to overtime.
But Telecom spokesperson Robin Kelly said the workers were offered financial assistance and interest free loans.
Mr Kelly said Telecom was moving toward the international model of line maintenance, where workers have an opportunity to run their own businesses and become owner operators.
Mr Kelly said Visionstream had offered the workers $3000 grants, a 36-month interest free loan to buy tools and other equipment and “considerate backup support.”
“This is a significant opportunity to increase income and flexibility in how they work, to have a successful business.”
Many of the workers made redundant have signed contracts with Visionstream and will continue to work on Telecom lines.
EPMU national industry organiser Joe Gallagher said the takeover marked a significant change in the way Telecom maintained the network.
Mr Gallagher said the changeover had caused EPMU members “huge distress.”
EPMU is the country’s largest private sector union; it represents 45,000 workers across 11 industries.