9 Oct 2018

Chorus in urgent talks after probe reveals exploitation

9:02 am on 9 October 2018

Telecommunications company Chorus is holding urgent talks with the Labour Inspectorate today after a damning investigation into ultrafast broadband subcontractors.

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Chorus is facing scrutiny after an investigation revealed several failings by the telecommunications company. Photo: RNZ

An investigation by the Labour Inspectorate has found 73 subcontractors in Auckland failed to keep employment records, pay the minimum wage and provide employment agreements.

Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said the breaches involved immigrant workers.

"Many of these employees represent a vulnerable section of the New Zealand workforce that often aren't aware of their minimum employment rights and are concerned with their visa status," he said.

Mr Lumsden told Morning Report the system Chorus had meant some workers were under constant pressure to be able to even achieve minimum wage.

"What it means for the people themselves is that they weren't necessarily getting the right holidays accredited to them, they may not have been getting the minimum wage," he said.

He said recommendations have been made to Chorus and the investigation would continue to find out if the company acted knowingly.

"We believe that they need to have an assurance programme in place, as does any person who uses subcontractors," Mr Lumsden said.

"This is phase one of our investigation... if Chorus is found culpable we will investigate what possibilities there are to pursue that issue."

E tū union spokesperson Joe Gallagher said the practice was alarming, but not surprising.

"We have known about the effect of this contracting model since they started it," he said.

Mr Gallagher said Chorus needed to shoulder the responsibility.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the behaviour was not acceptable.

"This activity is in breach of minimum employment standards required by law, it is clearly exploiting migrants, and it is a timely reminder why the government is strengthening employment law to protect vulnerable workers," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

A Chorus spokesperson said the company was "disappointed'' by the findings of the investigation.

The company had no further comment until after it meets with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment today.