Just before the weekend, 55 technicians working on the Telstra copper network connecting and maintaining the NBN were sacked on the spot, according to the Telecommunications Union. The CEPU says "the failed, sham pyramid contracting scheme employed by Telstra and their contracting partners" is to blame.
Trilogie Resourcing, a labour-hire shell company which the CEPU says has ownership connections to NBN and Telstra backed training provider Celemetrix, told the workers from the Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Hunter, Greater Sydney and ACT regions that the company was folding and they no longer have a job today, effective immediately.
CEPU NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Shane Murphy said the news is "a devastating blow" and is further proof the NBN "pyramid" contracting structure is not working.
Residents of Elan Tower in Sydney's Kings Cross are used to 100Mbps download speeds, thanks to the hybrid fibre coaxial cable they paid Telstra to install six years ago.
Now the building is being forced onto NBN's copper-based fibre-to-the-building network. The copper telephone wire in the building, travelling up 40 floors, is 20 years old.
"These workers were called to a meeting, told they no longer have a job, then ushered over to a storage facility where they had to hand over their phones, car keys and other items and then shoved into taxis and sent home," Murphy said.
"Workers are currently heading home to tell their families they no longer have a job to pay the bills. It's a devastating position to be in."
Murphy says the CEPU will be doing everything it can to ensure these workers get all their entitlements, and are engaging with other industry employers to see if employment can be found elsewhere.
"The Federal Government and NBN Co are turning a blind eye to these dodgy employment set-ups," Murphy says. "This company has been the subject of a number of worker complaints including the failure to provide adequate training, unlawful withholding of overtime payments and unfair dismissals."
Murphy says what he calls the "NBN contracting pyramid" is "seriously flawed".
"Industry skills are disappearing; wages are dropping and workers are being left vulnerable. These 55 workers are the faces of a system that’s simply not working."