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NBN: CWU fights pyramid contracting

In recent months the CWU has become aware of a number of pyramid contracting companies operating in the telecommunications industry on terms which the union regards as grossly exploitative of workers. 

The companies involved typically engage relatively inexperienced and poorly trained workers to work as sub-contractors to the large contracting companies, in this case ISGM. ISGM is in turn contracted to Telstra to provide labour for installation and maintenance work. 

That’s four layers in the pyramid with the most vulnerable at the bottom! 

These arrangements inevitably degrade conditions in the industry, as each company in the sub-contracting pyramid takes its cut of the cake. 

But in the cases the CWU has recently come across, the third tier companies are actually taking up to 30% of the subbies wages as they flow down from ISGM. 

The CWU is utterly opposed to such parasitic practices and will do all it can to eliminate them from the industry.  The union has already had success in eliminating the “middle man” in some of these cases. 

But the CWU is not surprised that such practices are occurring. Ultimately they reflect a failure by Telstra to address the labour supply problems caused by its own job cuts and its contracting out of work in a timely and systematic way. 

Of course sub-contracting is not confined to Telstra and its contractors.   It has spread throughout the industry in recent years as the NBN project has scrambled to find enough skilled workers to meet both its immediate and longer-term needs. 

Unscrupulous operators thrive in such an environment. It is time the industry majors took responsibility for eliminating this rogue element through a commitment both to training and to directly employing communication workers.

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