Category: Communications

E tū: false complaints delay power fix

E tū is issuing a plea for people to stop making false complaints about power outages, as lines crews work around the clock to reconnect Aucklanders after last week’s massive storm.

The common feedback from our members is that this is the most extensive damage they have seen resulting from large trees being ripped out of the ground and over the lines.

The power remains out in parts of West Auckland, with isolated outages in some suburbs.

E tū Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says Vector and their contractors, Northpower and Electrix have brought in significant extra staff from outside of the Auckland region and crews are working long hours to get the power back on.

“We’d congratulate our many members working on this. They’ve been working basically non- stop since last Tuesday,” says Joe.

“In some cases, guys have had to be stood down because they’ve reached their fatigue hours – they’re working about 70 hours a week.”

Joe says the public is largely supportive of the crews and while most call-outs are genuine, some are not and that has put pressure on everyone working to reconnect Aucklanders.

“Some people ring up, saying, “Our power’s out,” only to find that the main switch was left off at the meter board as a safety precaution by private electricians.  So, the crews turn up, and there’s no problem.  But every time that happens, they can’t respond to someone else who needs their help.

“I would appeal to these people – do some basic checks first. You wouldn’t call an ambulance if it’s not an emergency, so consider if you really need help,” says Joe.

Joe says the safety of the crews on the ground is absolutely paramount for all concerned.

ENDS

For more information, contact;

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator ph. 027 591 0015

Workers come forward to Chorus inquiry

E tū says more workers are coming forward to report labour abuses to the Labour Inspectorate lead investigation into Chorus contractors and subcontractors working on the ultrafast broadband network.

The investigation began just before Christmas, following reports of exploitative practices by Chorus subcontractors in Nelson where people worked for free, as so-called volunteers.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator Communications, Joe Gallagher says the union is working closely with the Labour Inspectorate, and a number of workers have been interviewed.

“We’ve been very encouraged by the number of people coming forward. We are working with them, ensuring they have contact with the Inspectorate to get this information into the investigation,” says Joe.

He cites reports from workers, including many migrants, which reveal a litany of illegal work practices.

They include illegal pay deductions, underpayment of wages or no payment for so-called ‘volunteers’, as well as health and safety breaches, no annual leave and sick leave, and inadequate equipment.

For many, the work is a way to meet immigration requirements for work permits and residency, but Joe says that’s left people vulnerable to exploitation.

“We saw the early cases come through in Nelson, but in Auckland alone there are 900 subcontractors to Chorus contractors, Visionstream and UCG. The potential scale of the problem is huge,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

 

Workers gutted as ABCorp confirms closure

E tū is extremely disappointed with the confirmation today that the plastic card manufacturer, ABCorp is to close its Christchurch plant.

About 50 workers will lose their jobs after the company confirmed it was moving operations at the plant to Australia.

“We’re gutted about this,” says Joe Gallagher, E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Communications.

“The workers knew what was coming but that doesn’t make it any easier. These are good jobs with reasonable pay and conditions and that’s hard to find these days,” says Joe.

Joe says the union will be doing all it can to support the workers ahead of closure, which is scheduled for the end of March.

ABCorp Christchurch is one of several local firms to shut its doors and relocate across the Tasman, including Cadbury and Auckland company, Pastry House.

“These companies come over here, they create expectations for the people working for them, but there’s no loyalty. They lose a major contract or two, as happened here and just decide to move on,” Joe says.

However, he has reiterated the union’s view that the Government can help support local specialist firms through its procurement processes.

“ABCorp lost a major Government transport contract and several others.  This Government is committed to local workers and their families. We think that includes helping support local businesses producing quality products through Government procurement contracts where appropriate.”

ENDS

For more information, contact:
Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator Communications ph. 027 591 0015

 

MBIE investigation pending of Chorus UFB contractors

E tū understands the employment practices of Chorus’s contractors and subcontractors will be the subject of an inquiry by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

This follows cases of unpaid workers on a “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus subcontractor, UCG in Nelson – which Chorus subsequently put a stop to.

A second case involved a Nelson man who was paid $12 an hour – more than 20 percent less than the minimum wage – by Chorus subcontractor, Frontier Communications.

E tū has welcomed the inquiry, saying it comes as workers for another Chorus contractor come forward.

“Our understanding is, the news of this inquiry has seriously rattled Chorus which has instructed its contractors and subcontractors to make sure their house is in order,” says Joe.

“We’re very supportive of this investigation – we’ve been seeking this for months.”

In the latest cases to emerge, migrant cablers faced multiple breaches of their employment contracts. For the first few weeks, instead of wages they only received an allowance of about $150 per week. Then, money was deducted from their pay though they weren’t told why.  They also worked up to 80 hours a week, some of it unpaid, while some weeks there was no work at all.

“Chorus has said any labour abuses involving its contractors are isolated cases,” says Joe.

“We think it’s the tip of the iceberg, but we do know Chorus has moved swiftly to issue a warning to its contractors.

“We have said before that any inquiry needs to ensure strict confidentiality for any workers prepared to speak out about what’s happening. That’s the only way to find out just how widespread this exploitation is, and to protect the jobs of these vulnerable workers,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

Joe can put interested reporters in touch with two workers who are prepared to speak with media on condition of anonymity.

Time to call Chorus to account over contracting

E tū says Chorus must be called to account after revelations about the work practices at Frontier Communications – a subcontractor to Chorus UFB cabling contractor, Visionstream.

Former Frontier Communications worker, Wilem Brown of Nelson says he was expected to install UFB cables, despite receiving no training, and was only paid $12.00 an hour – less than the minimum wage.

E tū’s Communications Industry Coordinator Joe Gallagher says Wilem’s story should be sounding alarm bells.

E tū’s Industry Coordinator, Communications, Joe Gallagher says Wilem’s story should be sounding alarm bells.

“First of all, there’s the human cost here. 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,” says Joe.

“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.

“While both cases have come to light in Nelson, there are similar problems elsewhere. It is clear Chorus’s contracting model is broken,” he says.

Joe says Chorus is under-funding its contractors and it’s time something was done to preserve the integrity of the UFB installation programme.

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

Joe says a Government inquiry is also needed into the installation standards for this critical infrastructure.

“The pyramid nature of contracting is insidious. The further you get away from the source, the harder it is to hold companies to account.  But Chorus needs to be called to account,” says Joe.

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015

 

E tū calls on Deputy PM to abandon harassment of journalists

The journalists’ union, E tū is calling on the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, to abandon his harassment of journalists who reported he had been overpaid New Zealand Superannuation.

Mr Peters has already gone to the High Court demanding Newshub journalist, Lloyd Burr and Newsroom co-editor, Tim Murphy provide their phone records, notes and documents related to the superannuation story which ran during the election campaign.

Newsroom reports he has now also told the High Court in Auckland he wants to be paid monetary damages by the two journalists.

E tū’s journalist representative, Brent Edwards says Mr Peters’ attacks on the journalists could have a chilling effect on New Zealand journalism.

The union is also deeply disturbed to find out that in his statement to the court, Mr Peters labelled Lloyd Burr a “National Party political activist”.

Brent says this attack is reprehensible and similar to attacks on journalists in countries like the Philippines, where press freedom and journalists’ safety is taken much less seriously by the Government there.

“As Foreign Minister, Mr Peters should uphold his obligation to support press freedom and journalists’ safety around the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Brent.

“If Mr Peters continues to target journalists in New Zealand in an attempt to muzzle them, he does nothing for this country’s reputation abroad as a healthy democracy which values and supports press freedom.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Brent Edwards E tū journalist representative ph. 021 970 815.

 

UCG “volunteer” model for Chorus fibre optics build “completely unacceptable”

E tū says the so-called “volunteer” scheme run by Chorus fibre optics contractor, Universal Communications Group is a clear case of migrant exploitation.

E tū’s Communications Industry Coordinator, Joe Gallagher says the union recently learned of the scheme through a UCG document advising its subcontractors of the rules around recruiting these “volunteers”.

“With what’s happened in Nelson, it’s obvious now that this was about exploiting migrants who were contracted to work for free. That’s disgraceful and unacceptable,” says Joe.

Joe says Chorus had no choice but to instruct UCG to scrap the scheme once someone blew the whistle.

However, he says the scheme is the inevitable outcome of Chorus’s determination to drive down the cost of its fibre optic installation programme.

“Chorus has driven the cost so low that experienced contractors like Downer have quit.  Skilled workers have been forced out and they’ve been replaced by inexperienced people, who will work for less or in this case, nothing at all.”

Joe is urging the Government to investigate the true state of the workforce rolling out this  critical infrastructure.

“This is government money so there should be transparency. We shouldn’t be seeing this type of exploitation of workers in New Zealand,” he says.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Communications Industry Coordinator, ph. 027 591 0015

TVNZ members disappointed with CEO salary increase

TVNZ members of the unions, E tū and the PSA today expressed disappointment that Chief Executive, Kevin Kenrick had accepted salary and bonuses which increased his pay by $500,000 whilst overseeing falling revenues at the state-owned broadcaster.

TVNZ’s net profit for the year declined 89 percent – from $12.7m in 2016 to just $1.4m.

The news of Mr Kenrick’s 16 percent pay rise came as members were presented with a 1 percent increase for the same financial year.

It also comes on the back of an incoming Labour-led government promising to address growing inequality in New Zealand.

This year, staff have been through restructuring which resulted in the loss of more newsroom jobs and other positions across the wider business, in an effort to cut costs to off-set revenue declines.

Union representatives said employees had risen to the challenge of continuing to deliver quality content with fewer resources.

But they considered the Chief Executive’s remuneration deeply cynical in light of a volatile media environment and where TVNZ staff have been offered a pay rise that doesn’t even keep pace with the cost of living.

ENDS

For more information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Senior National Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595

 

 

E tū acknowledges Vector as power industry Living Wage leader

E tū would like to congratulate Vector on joining the Living Wage Employer Accreditation programme and would encourage the firms in Vector’s supply chain to do likewise.

E tū Industry Coordinator Communications, Joe Gallagher says Vector’s decision is likely to lift the profile of the Living Wage within the power sector as well as influence other firms to also make the same commitment.

“We have members at Vector and this is recognition of how important the Living Wage is for working people.

“Vector has also committed to paying its contract cleaning staff the Living Wage when that contract comes up for renewal next year, and that’s to be applauded,” says Joe.

He says he also wants to see companies in Vector’s supply chain, which provide lines maintenance and other services, also embrace the Living Wage.

He says Vector is already speaking with its supply companies about this.

“We want to acknowledge Vector which has said they are already in conversation about this, and to encourage these suppliers to make the change.

“It’s important that large businesses recognise they can change the lives of their workers, including contract cleaners and Vector has proved this.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:

Joe Gallagher E tū Industry Coordinator, Communications ph. 027 591 0015