Updated: Chorus industrial dispute affects Orcon services

Telecom's Chorus: non-union workers being used to deliver services

ISP Orcon is warning customers that faults and new connections are being delayed by Telecom network operator Chorus's industrial dispute with contractors.

In a note on its website, Orcon says customers are currently experiencing delays when work is required to be carried out by Chorus, "particularly when a new broadband installation is required, or a physical fault needs attention".

"In turn our call centre is under pressure as our customers call to find out what is happening with their orders/faults," the company says.

Computerworld reported the dispute in early July.

Chorus announced a new structure for companies contracted to service its network in late June, which resulted in sub-contractors taking industrial action. The contractors are objecting to being forced into owner-operator contracts.

"We are working with Chorus to ensure that this situation has the least impact possible and is resolved as quickly as possible. They are acutely aware of the impact this is having on us and our customers," Orcon says.

Chorus spokesman Brett Jackson says in Auckland North therre have been some delays in services as a result of the industrial action.

"We are working closely with customers on dealing with delays and reprioritising services," he says.

Jackson says 30 percent of the workforce is unionised. Chorus is using non-union workers to perform the work of union members.

Asked whether Chorus supported union activity within its organisation, Jackson says: "We value any skilled worker, whether they are a union member or a non union member."

Opposition ICT spokeswoman Clare Curran has been badgering the government over the issue in Parliament.

"I hope John Key and Steven Joyce are getting updates from their staff on this post, because we are now seeing the evidence that Telecom’s handling of the Visionstream contract is having an adverse effect on the wider industry," she wrote on her blog today.

"Orcon customers are now being affected. And it’s not just the regular service delivery, fixing faults etc. It’s the installation of new broadband connections. Which doesn’t bode well for a government that needs a skilled workforce to rollout its $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband.

"I’m waiting for more industry players to start speaking out. Customers too. Perhaps the government could reconsider its response in question time yesterday where it said the issue was an issue of private contracts between companies."

Earlier this month, Chorus assured customers it would focus on maintaining services and minimising any impact a two-day union might cause.

"We would like to apologise in advance to customers for any service delays this may cause, but would like to assure everyone that we have comprehensive plans in place to maintain critical services and have prioritised jobs to restore internet or telephone faults," it said.

"With a third of our service company field force unionised, most of our service company field technicians will still be on hand to maintain services and we want to thank them for picking up a little more work to help us keep the focus on our customers."

After the end of the two-day action, the workers changed tack to introduce an indefinite ban on broadband work.

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