15 Jul 2009

EPMU says action likely by phone line workers

9:02 pm on 15 July 2009

One of New Zealand's biggest unions says workers who install and repair telephone lines and other equipment in Auckland and Northland are planning nationwide industrial action.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the action is likely to involve a high level of disruption.

It says about 900 workers have given a clear message about their anger over plans that would have them work under a new contractor, VisionStream.

The Australian firm wants workers from Telecom subsidiary Chorus to become owner-operators but the union says its members cannot afford to take this risk during a recession.

Delegates say they have developed a strategy to fight the plan but will not reveal full details until it has been approved by union members.

EPMU national organiser Joe Gallagher says workers are not ruling out high levels of disruption as part of nationwide industrial action.

He says Telecom's broadband rollout could be a target.

VisionStream has said in the past that its proposals have worked well in other places and many staff are actually keen on becoming self-employed contractors.