NBN technicians across the county have walked off the job to protest pay cuts and other ongoing issues.
This story has been updated to include statements from NBN Co.
NBN technicians walk off the job
The decision was made on Monday after a Communications Union (CEPU) meeting. This was followed by a convoy of technicians heading to NBN Co’s North Sydney office to protest.
The protest itself is regarding pay cuts, poor treatment, issues with job bookings and scheduling as well as a ‘pyramid contracting model.’
According to the CEPU, “NBN contracts work to their ‘delivery partners’ who then sub-contract that work to their ‘principle contractors’ who then either subcontract it again, or hire low paid, under skilled workers to complete a job they haven’t been properly trained to perform.”
“The mismanagement of Australia’s NBN network continues to be left unaddressed and workers have had enough,”CEPU National President, Shane Murphy, said in a press release.
“It’s not the workers’ fault that they’re not being offered the training, pay or hours sufficient to get the job done. Nor is it the customer’s fault for being furious about delayed, failed and shonky installations,” the CEPU said back in 2020.
NBN Co referred to its relationship with delivery partners as standard industry practice. It stated that its these partners that are responsible for contractors.
“Our construction and maintenance contracts place responsibility for compliance with the law and relevant legislation on our delivery partners in relation to the contracted services,” NBN Co said to Gizmodo Australia.
“Delivery partners are free to use their own employees or sub-contractors when fulfilling the work and maintenance outlined in our contracts with them.”
Workers and customers suffer while executives get bonuses
Murphy is calling on Minister for Communications, Minister Paul Fletcher, to create a Senate Inquiry into the rollout of the NBN.
“The NBN rollout has been plagued with issues from day one, and workers won’t put up with it any longer. NBN Co needs to scrap their dodgy pyramid contracting model, improve pay rates and ditch the shonky booking app.”
It’s Gizmodo Australia’s understanding that the app takes an extended period of time for a booking to be marked as complete. Workers are unable to move onto the next job until this happens.
As a result, customers are forced to wait a long time for service and contractors can’t get enough paid jobs completed.
“Subcontractors are fed up with cuts to their pay and a shambolic booking system which is leaving subcontractors and NBN customers high and dry,” Murphy said.
According to NBN Co, it is aware of the issues in the app.
“We have significantly improved the app over the last few weeks to address functionality, system performance and general user experience pain-points, and will continue to modify and enhance the app in the next two weeks.” NBN Co said to Gizmodo Australia over email.
“We appreciate technicians’ patience while we work to improve the app.”
According to Murphy, NBN subcontractors are required to sign new contracts with NBN co partners which reduces their pay.
Murphy compared this to the $77 million in bonuses that NBN executives and staff received in the latter half of 2020. This was around the same time that NBN Co planned 800 job cuts across the business.
Back in 2020 The Guardian also revealed that NBN executives are some of the highest paid government workers in the country.
“These NBN Co subcontractors have continued to keep the country’s internet services connected during the covid-19 pandemic, turning up for work day in, day out. They deserve better from NBN Co,” Murphy said.
It’s currently unclear whether the protest will extend beyond Monday.
“They have walked off the job for today and requesting a meeting with NBN Co,” a CEPU spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia over email.
“Further action has not been ruled out.”
NBN Co told Gizmodo Australia that it is currently working with the CEPU in relation to the protest.
“We are working constructively with the CEPU and we are seeking to maintain and support strong, productive working relationships with our delivery partners and their respective subcontractors,” NBN Co said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
“NBN Co appreciates the ongoing dedication and diligence of the thousands of highly qualified field technicians and network engineers who work hard to maintain the reliability and performance of the NBN network across Australia.”
There’s always a problem with the NBN
After first being introduced in 2013, the rollout of NBN has been plagued with issues. In addition to shirking a full-fibre roll out until recently (and it still won’t be the entire network), the cost has blown out astronomically.The Coalition originally quoted $29.5 billion, but it has been much higher than that.
It has also taken years longer for the network roll out to be ‘completed’ than originally quoted. And even then, there are hundreds of thousands of residential homes in Australia that are incapable of getting 25 Mbps speeds on the network.
Eight years later and it seems a lot of Australians are sick of the empty promises proposed by the NBN.