Phone techs in pay cut revolt

By UTE SCHULENBERG

COFFS Coast rural telephone technicians are caught in the middle of a battle of words between their employer, Downer Engineering, and Telstra.

In August the sub-contractors were told they had to wear a $25 drop in the service rate paid for customers outside the urban area.

Now they have been hit with yet another pay cut ? this time for telephone installations, where there is an existing line.

A job that previously paid $87, now pays $38.

Toormina-based subcontractor Mick Hayden said technicians were being asked to do what was effectively a full installation but only being paid for a simple in-place service check-up.

"We are getting paid for one hour, when the job can take up to a day," Mr Hayden said.

Now the technicians are taking action and are refusing to accept jobs to repair rural faults, except in cases of medical urgency.

"This is the second rate cut in the last three months," Mr Hayden said.

"Telstra keeps moving the goalposts by changing the job definitions and we want to force Downer to do something for the percentage they are paid."

In a statement, Downer Engineering said the recent change in interpretation in the rates schedule was not initiated by them.

"It was initiated by Telstra and we will continue wherever possible to have dialogue with Telstra in order to reach a solution to the concerns expressed by sub-contractors."

The statement went on to say that a fair and reasonable rate structure was needed so sub-contractors could deliver the desired outcome of good service on time for Telstra's customers.

Communications Union organiser Shane Murphy said Telstra's actions were bankrupting subcontractors in NSW.

"This re-definition of rural work would see technicians lose up to $25,000 a year overnight," he said.

He said long delays on phone installations and repairs may occur.

Telstra Countrywide's regional manager, Michael Sharpe, said the terms of the commercial contract between Telstra and Downer Engineering were confidential and Telstra had not changed the terms of the contract.

He said wage-related issues were a matter between Downer and the sub-contractors.



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