Most Spark staff want 'agile' contracts but not enough to go around

RELATED AUDIO: Spark chief digital officer Claire Barber on her company's bid to get 1900 staff to sign new contracts (June 14)
Matt Bain, currently with Dutch marketing agency AKQA, will become Spark's new marketing director, replacing Clive Ormerod who quit for Les Mills.

Spark says 96% of staff offered new 'agile' contracts have signed them.

However, spokesman Andrew Pirie also confirms that not all staff who wanted a role under the agile rejig succeeded in finding one.

The telco has yet to confirm its headcount after its latest restructure, which it earlier said will include redundancies, which are also implicit in Spark's stated aim to reduce its annual wage bill by $90 million to $470m; an amount that suggests hundreds of jobs could go.

Mr Pirie says the company is working with the remaining 4% to resolve issues relating to the new contracts.

"We’re not providing absolute numbers right now. We will provide an update on employee numbers at our annual results announcement in August," he says.

He adds, "The agile contracts were offered to people in ‘engine room’ roles within Spark, encompassing IT, networks, product development and marketing, who collectively account for about a third of Spark’s overall employee numbers."

Mid-June, about 1900 of Spark's 5384 staff were given a week to sign new contracts.

Earlier, employment lawyer Jennifer Mills said one week would generally be regarded as an acceptable timeframe, although it depends on the exact nature of the new agreements. Spark has not commented in detail but says salary and other employment terms were not changed. Rather, staff are being asked to embrace a new way of working in "agile," self-organising cross-functional teams (or "squads" or "tribes" as they are known in agile-speak).

Some wanted an agile contract, but no role going
On June 14, Spark chief digital officer Claire Barber told NBR, "Agile is a very different working style, which may not suit everyone."

Now Mr Pirie updates, "Fewer than 200 of our people have not taken up roles in the agile structure. That includes a significant number who, for a range of reasons, decided agile wasn’t for them and opted out, as well as some people who wanted to work in agile but were unsuccessful in finding a role."

In a May 25 market filing, Spark warned acceleration of its "Quantum" restructure programme, which includes the new move to agile ways of working and software development (including a focus on automation), would add $25-30m to its costs this year.

New executives
Separately, Spark has named two new members to its executive management team.

One is Matt Bain, who will start as marketing director from November.

The Auckland University-educated Mr Bain is currently with the Netherlands-based brand agency AKQA as managing director, international. The Dutch agency has brands including Nike, Siemens, Rolls Royce, Mini, Oakley, Tommy Hilfiger, Hermes, KLM, Ducati, Audi, Deutsche Telekom, Heineken and Philips on its books.

The other is in-house counsel Melissa Anastasiou who has been promoted to join Spark's executive management, or  "leadership squad," as it is now termed, with immediate effect.

Spark's previous marketing boss, Clive Ormerod, quit in May for a role with Les Mills International. 

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