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38 companies blacklisted as Chorus claims progress on contractor abuse

38 companies blacklisted as Chorus claims progress on contractor abuse

Chorus itemises the initiatives taken to address failures

Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie.

Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie.

Credit: Supplied

Chorus says all of its sub-contracting companies delivering fibre connections have been audited and 38 have been blacklisted after a contractor exploitation scandal.

The company, which is charged by government with delivering the Ultrafast Broadband fibre rollout, today provided an update on more than 30 initiatives it and its service partners have developed in response to the issues.

Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie said migrant worker exploitation was very difficult to manage. Chorus didn't have visibility of its supply chain and "didn't dig deep enough".

Chorus, along with major suppliers Visionstream and UCG, have been working to improve the strength and transparency of its supply chain, Chorus said, with the aim of reducing the risk of employment law breaches amongst its sub-contractors.

The initiatives were implemented in response to the recommendations made as part of the independent review conducted by consultancy MartinJenkins earlier this year.

A total of 357 sub-contracting companies have been audited, with 236 found to be compliant. 104 were taking steps to improve and 38 have been blacklisted, including some who left the sector before auditing was complete.

McKenzie said the company "knows that the bad guys had gone".

The total workforce employed by sub-contracting companies to deliver fibre connections was 1546 at 30September, with 73.1 per cent of those workers on visas.

“Six months on we have delivered on the vast majority of the commitments we made in April, and now attention shifts to completing the remaining initiatives while keeping the whole supply chain under constant review to ensure the changes are delivering the results we need,” McKenzie said.

“We remain very open to further changes if the monitoring does not show the improvements we need to see."

McKenzie said as Chorus was approaching the end of the decade-long fibre build it was now entering a different phase in which the field workforce was scaling down rather than rapidly scaling up. 

"Despite this we remain absolutely committed to creating a fair supply chain for everyone working on our behalf.

“In many cases visa conditions mean migrant workers will need to return home once they have finished working on UFB, however we continue to investigate opportunities for redeployment in the event that it becomes a relevant option,” she said.

Improvements since February 2019 included:
- All sub-contracting companies working on fibre connections have been audited
- Visionstream and UCG have completed strategic workforce plans to ensure sub-contractors are managed appropriately as workforce numbers decline
- Some changes to codes (the amount sub-contractors are paid for each task) have been implemented to improve fairness, with a broader review of codes underway
- The criteria for deciding how jobs are allocated to sub-contractors through dispatch has been improved to ensure fairness and transparency
- A new standard process for sub-contractor company on-boarding has been introduced, aimed at ensuring minimum standards for employers will be adhered to
- Existing sub-contractor companies will complete the new training by the end of 2019
- The individual technician on-boarding process has also been improved, to ensure migrant workers are aware of their rights
- A new independent whistle-blower process has been introduced
- A worker welfare portal website, which includes welcome to NZ information for immigrant workers, is now live
- Mandatory statutory declarations of compliance to employment standards for sub-contractors have been introduced
- Visa transfer support is provided to individuals in the event that a sub-contracting company is blacklisted
- Visionstream and UCG are to provide monthly reports to Chorus on all sub-contracting companies and the individuals they employ, including visa status, to ensure high quality data about the full workforce is always available
- An ongoing audit programme introduced and will be adjusted as the workforce changes
- Monthly updates have been provided to the Chorus Board

“Chorus’ Board and management are of one mind that breaches of employment law by sub-contracted businesses are absolutely unacceptable, so we remain open to further reforms if they are proven necessary," McKenzie said.

Ensuring the welfare of all workers in the Chorus supply chain, particularly during a time of substantial changes in the workforce, remained an "absolute priority”, she said.


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