On 25th June 2009 Telecom announced that its two biggest network engineering contractors, Transfield and Downer EDI had lost their contracts to look after the Northland and Auckland network to a new company, Visionstream. 700 lines engineers were informed that their jobs were redundant and they would only get work if they transferred to Visionstream as dependent contractors.
Despite widespread industrial action, organised by their union, the EPMU, along with financial support to support the workers from being starved into submission, the lines engineers were made redundant, and one by one, many reluctantly became their own bosses.
Some of us wrote blogs about this dispute warning there would be serious consequences for the industry and Telecom.
An independent analysis of the contracts offered by Vision stream calculated that as owner operators, the workers could lose up to 50 – 66% of their income. The consequences haven’t just impacted on the lines engineers. Customers are paying too, just like we were told it would.
The EPMU reports that :
Last week, Visionstream called on its contractors for the tenth week in a row to work through the weekend in order to deal with a backlog of service calls. In a memo sent to all contractors, Visionstream said that they are currently going through “the worst performance we have faced as individual companies and Visionstream ever”.
Visionstream pays a flat rate to its dependent contractors for service calls, and if they want the work they have to meet the company’s demands.
The NZ Herald reported on the 8th July 2011 that ;
“Maintenance of Auckland’s telephone network at its worst in years – but the company in charge denies taking up to five days to fix faults.
The company asked all installation and fault technicians to postpone days off between June 28 and July 8, and acknowledged that this came on top of having staff working every weekend for the previous nine weeks.
“For the last nine weeks, on average up to 1000 customers per day in the Visionstream-managed areas have had their service impacted in one form or another,” the internal memo said.
I see these workers around still, driving the same Chorus vans they were driving when they were employees, but they are earning heaps less for the privilege of being their own boss.
They were treated them badly. The law allowed Telecom to get away with it.
Now we’re all paying.