The E tū union is challenging Chorus contractors Visionstream and UCG over big cuts to maintenance payments on networks north of Auckland.
E tū industry coordinator Joe Gallagher said the changes affect the codes which determine what the contractors are paid.
These have been slashed by almost a third, he said.
“The contractors were presented with new contracts and told to sign. The rates that determine their pay are set to drop by 30 per cent, and they’re not happy,” he said.
“The new contracts also require they are available for work but there is no guarantee they’ll get any.”
Chorus head of external communications Nathan Beaumont said because more people are moving to fibre there is less work available on Chorus’ copper network, particularly for provisioning new copper services.
The changes do not relate to any provisioning work on the fibre network.
"Visionstream has been working closely with their technicians to benchmark the effort required to complete tasks on the copper network," Beaumont said.
The amount paid for a particular work task defined as "no code" has not been reduced by 30 per cent or more, he said. However, there are a number of new codes and the scope of some have changed to better reflect the actual work undertaken.
"Visionstream is supporting technicians to take on a different mix of work including working on Chorus’ fibre network," Beaumont said.
Visionstream is continuing to consult through the the end of July and will consider any changes to the codes based on feedback.
However, Gallagher said the contractors are already struggling with rising costs and issues with mental health because of the pressures they face.
“All the costs and risks sit with them but many lack the capital to ride out a lean patch.”
He added that Chorus committed to improving conditions for its contractors and subcontractors after an investigation found many were in breach of minimum employment standards.
In the wake of that investigation, Chorus did its own report, which recommended changes to ease pressure on its contractors.
“This latest move flies in the face of Chorus’s commitment to ensure the contractors receive a sustainable income,” he said.
Yesterday's meeting was hosted by the Telecom Contractors Association of New Zealand (TCANZ) to discuss how the contractors and the union can work together to achieve better outcomes.