April 22, 2008
Broadband plan must address skills shortage - EPMU
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says John Key’s policy of rolling out fibre optic cable to 75% of New Zealand homes is a step in the right direction, but is concerned the task may be impossible given the current skills shortage.
The EPMU represents thousands of telecommunications lines workers around the country and is warning that the workforce that would be involved in this roll out has no spare capacity to meet Key’s targets.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says Key’s direction seems sound but more detail is needed.
“While we welcome any move to improve New Zealand’s high-speed broadband we would like to see some more detail about how the money promised will be spent, and we’d expect a pretty big chunk of it to be allocated to wages and training if this announcement is to be taken seriously.
“If John Key thinks there is the skilled workforce available to start rolling out a project like this within the next year he may need to think again as there is an international shortage of telecommunications workers and our members are already working huge amounts of overtime simply to keep the network maintained and roll-out Telecom’s modest cabinetisation program.
“This shortage isn’t surprising considering we went for the best part of the 1990’s under National with no real industry training system and that currently our members can easily get wage increases of fifty percent and more by simply crossing the ditch.
“We really want to see this sort of project happen as any investment that will increase productivity in New Zealand is good for our members but until we see details on wages and training around this it’s hard to see how fibre roll-out will be possible.”
The EPMU represents 50,000 working New Zealanders in 11 industries including 6000 in the telecommunications and electrical industry.