Visionstream takes over Downer’s Chorus UFB rollout

Visionstream is to take over the installation of Chorus optical fibre network in areas where it is currently being rolled out by Downer, following Downer’s decision not to retender for this work

Visionstream is to take over the installation of Chorus optical fibre network in areas where it is currently being rolled out by Downer, following Downer’s decision not to retender for this work.

Chorus revealed in its FY16 results announcement at the end of August the Downer had said it would not re-tender for the work, preferring to concentrate on the copper network and communal UFB build. That announcement prompted a claim from the union representing workers, E tū, to claim it exposed the poor treatment of Chorus contractors, and would jeopardise the sustainability of the new network.

In the wake of Visionstream’s appointment E tū’s industry co-ordinator, communications, Joe Gallagher accused Visionstream of using an owner-operator model of engaging subcontractors, saying it was backed by Chorus but not properly funded. He said many owner-operators were migrants, who became dependent contractors unable to make sufficient to make ends meet.

“Chorus has created a model which allows the exploitation of migrant workers, Gallagher said. “If you look at the state of the Auckland network, there is clear evidence of neglect of the copper network, and growing evidence of poor quality fibre installations under the owner-operator model.”

The changeover means Visionstream will now cover around 80 percent of the areas of UFB that Chorus is responsible for, with the balance being held by Broadspectrum, and multidwelling unit specialist UCG.

Chorus said Visionstream would take over fibre network rollout in the Hutt Valley, Masterton, Napier, Hastings and Gisborne in the North Island and Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, Queenstown, Invercargill, Dunedin in the South Island.

Visionstream said it had been awarded a four-year contract for ongoing rollouts in its current areas and in the former Downer areas. It expects total revenues over the four years to be around $390m: $190m from the existing areas and $200m from the former Visionstream areas. The contract comes with an option to extend for a further four years.

Chorus said it expected some Downer technicians to be “affected” (ie made redundant) by the change, but “with demand for fibre increasing significantly, technicians may have opportunities either to move to Visionstream - which will be expanding its number of technicians to support the UFB installations.” It said they might also be able to remain with Downer and continue to work on the copper network.

Chorus’ general manager customer services, Nick Woodward, said Visionstream’s operating model had proven to be very effective in attracting new crews and in getting through the most jobs in a day.

“Visionstream has already successfully taken over in Wellington, Porirua and Manawatu, and we have seen significant improvements in performance in those areas,” he said, adding: “Chorus, Visionstream and Downer are all committed to a smooth transition with the minimum of disruption for our technicians.”

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