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Govt Staying Out Of Telecom Engineers Dispute

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Kate Wilkinson
Kate Wilkinson

Wellington, Aug 26 NZPA - The Government will not be intervening in an industrial dispute between Telecom and engineers over planned changes to their work arrangements.

The National Distribution Union today said that Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson had cancelled a meeting with its representatives.

They claimed this was due to her office saying Ms Wilkinson could not meet with any union, even if they were not associated with the strike, while the action was going on.

Ms Wilkinson did not respond to requests for comment and she was absent from the House today when questions were asked about the issue.

Cabinet Minister Wayne Mapp said on her behalf that the meeting had been cancelled due to a clash of commitments.

Dr Mapp said neither the minister nor her department would get involved in contractual disputes between companies and their workers

Up to 1000 telecommunications engineers around the country staged a one-day strike this week as part of continued industrial action over plans to make the engineers owner/operators.

The engineers want their current employer, Telecom's network division Chorus, to abandon a contract agreement with Australian company Visionstream in Auckland and Northland.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard asked Mr Mapp if he agreed with Northland MP John Carter's reported description of the contract being offered workers as a "crock".

Dr Mapp said Mr Carter was speaking as an electoral MP and not as a matter of ministerial responsibility.

The engineers are angry that changes to their job came as Telecom revealed large salary packages for senior managers.

Meanwhile, Telecom released a statement saying infrastructure work in Auckland and Northland had got off to an "excellent start".

Visionstream owner operators began working in some parts of Auckland last Monday, with the transfer from existing providers expected to be fully completed by October 1.

The company remained on track to having a full complement of technicians and support staff in place by October 1, New Zealand manager Andrew Stevens said.

Visionstream workers had completed an above-average number of callouts for the area "and even logged congratulatory calls from satisfied customers", he said.

The company had now signed up more than 70 percent of its field workforce, and was continuing to receive enquiries from qualified technicians throughout New Zealand and overseas.

Suggestions the owner-operator model would see workers incomes halved were "well wide of the mark", he said.

Field staff maintaining a level of output in line with the current industry average could expect to maintain a similar level of income, and those with good productivity levels could achieve a significantly higher income, he said.

New owner operators were given considerable financial and technical support to get them started, he said.

"We're here for the long haul," he said.

"If we are going to build a successful business in New Zealand, we need to provide technicians with an offer that rewards them properly for the skills they possess and the work they carry out, and we need to ensure that the next generation of workers sees our industry as a viable career choice."

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