1492643953484 - Immigration curbs could hit home if demand for UFB spikes again

Immigration curbs could hit home if demand for UFB spikes again

Tighter immigration rules announced by the Government could impact Chorus if it faced an unexpected jump in demand for ultrafast broadband, the company says.

One of the changes announced by Prime Minister Bill English on Wednesday means migrants won’t be able to claim they have skills that are required for residency if they are to be employed in jobs that pay less than $48,859 a year.

Employers will have a freer hand attracting staff for jobs paying more than $73,299.

Chorus spokesman Ian Bonnar acknowledged the new skilled-salary bar set by the Government was above what is paid to some of its field force, a significant portion of which comprises migrant workers.

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E tu union organiser Joe Gallagher said hundreds of workers, including many from the Philippines and a growing number of Indians, were working as subcontractors delivering ultrafast broadband (UFB). 

Gallagher said the union was concerned that some of the workers were being exploited by small subcontracting companies which worked indirectly for Chorus’ main contractors.

The union was currently providing legal advice to one Indian who was being paid $16 an hour by a subcontractor and who had two hours trimmed from his 40-hour working week without consultation, he said. 

“There is migrant labour right across the country. If you look at Auckland, it looks like the ‘United Nations’ of telecommunications. You have got Indian subcontractors who then employ these Indians techs.”

Bonnar said that as it stood, Chorus did not believe it was likely to be affected by the immigration rule changes because it had enough people to manage its forward workload “without having to recruit any more from overseas”.

“If we need new people we think we can probably get them on-shore.”

But that might not be the case if there was an unexpected spike in demand for UFB, similar to one the company had recently experienced.

“Potentially down the line, if there is another completely unanticipated spike – like we had in the last couple of years – then it might be more challenging to recruit the people we need, but we don’t anticipate it being a problem in the short or medium term,” Bonnar said.

Gallagher was sceptical the Government’s immigration changes would prove effective in their stated goal of preventing Kiwi wages being undercut by migrants. He was concerned about the level of monitoring that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would undertake.

“These systems only work if there is proper monitoring, follow-ups and oversight around these contracts,” he said.