Telecom customers face delays as contractors go on indefinite strike
Around 100 Transfield staff on Auckland’s North Shore have downed tools. The technicians are among around 900 Transfield and Downer EDI staff being offered owner/operator contracts by Visionstream, which is taking over Telecom contract work in the city.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little told NBR that the striking staff would meet each day to access their situation. At present, they have no plans to return to work. Mr Little said the key issue is around 170 Transfield staff being sent redundancy notices: “It’s a Mexican stand-off”. Transfield staff who fear redundancy - or are made redundant - are more likely to sign Visionstream owner/operator contracts, said Mr Little.
The EPMU represents around 500 of the affected 900 workers, either through direct union membership, or through contracts to negotiate on an individual’s behalf. The striking workers represent around a third of Transfield’s staff in Auckland.
Downer staff, who cover most of the city, have not walked off the job. NBR understands that they already have a redundancy clause in place, despite a five-year battle to get one in place.
The walk-out follows a stop-work meeting at Auckland's Alexandra Park on Tuesday, part of a series that will also include meetings in Northland, and Wellington - where Downer staff are being offered owner/operator contracts (as part of the redrawing of Telecom's contractor map sparked by Visionstream's entry, Downer is taking over the capital from Transfield).
Telecom Chorus spokesman Robin Kelly said he could understand that the Transfield workers could want “the comfort of a redundancy clause with a new contractor coming into the market”.
Chorus - Telecom’s networking division - is talking to Visionstream, said Mr Kelly, and hopes to help it resolve its union problem.
Mr Kelly encouraged the striking workers to talk directly to Visionstream “because it is a proven model [in Australia] and there’s a long, rewarding future in this industry, which is booming.”
But until a resolution is reached, Telecom has put steps in place to minimise disruption.
Mr Kelly said Chorus does three things: service existing customers, connect voice and broadband for new customers, and build networks. While the strike is one, repairing faults for existing customers will be prioritised, and new customers could see delays in provisioning.
Chorus’ roadside cabinet roll out programme would not be affected, said Mr Kelly.
Today's strike is the second during parallel negotiations over new collective contracts, and Visionstream and Downer's mooted owner/operator contracts. Transfield staff called a 24-hour nationwide strike on July 24 to protest the stalled negotiations.