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Chorus clamps down on UFB contractor abuse

Chorus clamps down on UFB contractor abuse

Chorus says it has received assurances from its contractors rolling out the UFB network.

Chorus says it "has sought and received assurances" on employment standards for contractors.

Chorus says it "has sought and received assurances" on employment standards for contractors.

Network wholesaler Chorus says it has sought and received confirmation from service company partners that health and safety and employment standards are being "rigorously enforced and checked".

The assurance follows media reports that technicians working on Chorus’ fibre programme were not being paid correctly or receiving appropriate health and safety training.

Chorus says all of its service company contracts contain detailed health and safety and competency requirements that must be adhered to and the law complied with.

“Technicians must undergo induction training, including health and safety, before conducting any work on behalf of Chorus," said Chorus network and field general manager Ed Beattie.

Regular spot checks were undertaken to ensure compliance, he added.

Earlier this week, union E tū said Chorus must be called to account after revelations about the work practices at Frontier Communications - a sub-contractor to Chorus UFB cabling contractor, Visionstream.

A former Frontier Communications worker, Wilem Brown of Nelson, said after being placed in work by Work and Income NZ, he was expected to install UFB cables, despite receiving no training, and was only paid $12 an hour – less than the minimum wage.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Communications, Joe Gallagher, said Wilem’s story should ring alarm bells.

“First of all, there’s the human cost here," Gallagher said. "Wilem thought his new job was the start of a new career as a cable technician. Instead he was exploited and now he’s out of a job.

“Secondly, we believe his story is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve also had the case of the so-called “volunteers” working for free for Chorus subcontractor, UCG."

Chorus last month said it was "deeply uncomfortable" with the volunteers scheme with UCG's sub-contractor Auckland-based Sunwin Technologies under which several Indian "volunteers"  were brought in on one month-contracts.

Gallagher said while both cases came to light in Nelson, there were similar problems elsewhere. 

"It is clear Chorus’s contracting model is broken,” he said.

“We need an industry framework which provides clear employment conditions, sound parameters for health and safety and delivers a good outcome for the consumer."

Visionstream NZ general manager Andrew Todd said sub-contractors are expected to adhere to the conditions of their contract and Visionstream's company standards and employment laws.

“Before working with Visionstream, all contractors must complete health and safety, induction risk management and critical risk awareness training," he said.

"The training is designed to keep our employees, sub-contractors and the community safe, and provide them with the skills to ensure a high quality standard.”

UCG general manager operations New Zealand Paul Trotman said there is "no unpaid labour being used within the UCG workforce, or on the Chorus network, nor is it allowed to be." 

Beattie said in the event of employment disputes, service companies offer dispute resolution channels, and when inappropriate arrangements have been made known, immediate action has been taken.

Chorus has thousands of people working in the field rolling out the fibre programme and the claims raised in the media are "not reflective of the wider industry", he said. 

"However, we are constantly refining our framework for working with our contractors to ensure the best outcomes that we can," he added.

In August, Chorus reported net profit up from $91 million to $113 milion for the year ended 30 June.


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