July 13, 2006
Action means no new broadband
Industrial action by under-paid telephone technicians means that Telecom cannot provide new broadband internet connections in many parts of the country – even if it can persuade people to sign up.
Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little said that 320 frustrated technicians were refusing to install ADSL connections (required for broadband) in Auckland, Waikato, Nelson, Marlborough, Kaikoura and Christchurch.
“These workers have been trying to negotiate a new collective agreement since July last year,” he said.
“All they want is a five per cent pay rise and overtime rates for working more than eight hours a day and on weekends. They are highly skilled workers who have been under-paid for years.”
Mr Little said that although the workers were employed by Transfield, their situation was a direct result of Telecom’s failure to invest in resources, including people.
“For years Telecom refused to train new technicians, then it decided to contract out all work,” he said.
“But it controls 90 per cent of the market, and has used its monopoly to drive down labour rates by refusing to pay contracting companies like Transfield enough money so that they can pay decent wages.”
Mr Little said that retention was now a major issue in the industry.
“This is an ageing workforce, with sought-after skills,” he said. “They used to have relativity with electricians, but over the past 15 years have seen their rates fall well behind. These people are now paid around $17 an hour, and that’s not enough to keep them working in the industry.
Mr Little said that an efficient, modern telecommunications system was vital to New Zealand’s economy, but Telecom’s monopolistic actions were thwarting its development.