Labor facing union backlash over NBN delays


Delays in the rollout of the national broadband netork have exposed the Labor government to a union backlash, with the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union warning of "unacceptable" labour rates to meet cost targets, The Australian reports.

According to the newspaper, the CEPU's Communications Workers Union division believes there are "fundamental" problems, both commercial and and operational, with the NBN and expects it will be revised, regardless of the outcome of September's election.  

"The CWU has for many years supported the policy objective of creating a national broadband network capable of delivering modern services equitably to all Australians," the union said in a bulletin for members, The Australian reports.

"However, it cannot support an approach that creates uncertainty for the project's workers, whether employees or subcontractors, and that relies on unacceptable labour rates in order to meet cost targets."

Last week, NBN Co revised down its rollout targets by around three months, following a company board meeting.

The announcement was the first formal delay NBN Co has announced about the rollout. 

The company said the delay in its fibre-passed-the-premise target outlined in its corporate plan was due to the fact that work on the ground for the rollout was progressing at a slower rate than it initially forecast.

More from Business Spectator


Please login or register to post comments

Comments Policy »
The question is why the delays. Nothing can happen in an area until the Pits Ducts and Conduits are remediated and the council approves the plans. Areas get listed as either work commencing within 3 or 1 years then get removed. Telstra is a major key partner to the NBN with major contracts and committments, the NBN can not be seen to be blaming them as they need their cooperation. The stories from people on the ground include new ducts and conduit has to be trenched in in suburbs due to existing infrastructure being completely unuseable. Not unexpected, this is one of the main reason's privatisation is on the surface attractive, major cost cutting which usually means cutting maintenance expenditure as the greatest and quickest approach, accountants and economists do not comprehend the technical and practical long term realities until the chickens come home to roost. The figure being mooted is approx 30% of the in ground infrastructure requires remediation even if the executives responsible deny that reality. It depends wher in the area the problems are This factor will have a major impact on the FTTN fantasy
Have to agree with you on that one Abel. From what I have seen happening here in Tassie, and anecdotedly elsewhere around the country, the state of the pits and ducts are of major concern. The amount of remediation in order to get them into a fit state to charge NBNCo lease payments is astounding. Years of neglect is coming home to roost, and certainly impeding the NBN rollout.
What? Is the glorious neocon model of contracting-out not working so well (like toll-road tunnels, mayhap)? Well, if people are stupid enough to believe the propaganda - and that exploiting your workers yields more than training them and paying them good wages - they deserve what they get. CPSU-CWU is quite right. Flogging-out obsessions usually cause "fundamental commercial and operational problems at the heart of the project: the decentralised and outsourced construction program with all the problems of logistics, quality control and overall project management inherent in that approach; the (related) issues of labour supply and retention; the overarching difficulty of meeting cost targets that reflect hastily reached initial estimates". NBN managers have to have relevant practical experience if they are to control rather than watch; once, they would have gained those skills in a government business enterprise like a Public Works Department or a Railway Workshops. A good part of the construction workforce should have been selected for permanency from the beginning, to gather skills and collective memory. Labor has spent all this money to buy back something that Howard should never have flogged-off. Let's recreate it through the NBN. It will actually be cheaper than unlimited funding of profit-seeker venality, and non-accountability for non-service. It is a natural monopoly; trying to split up profit-seeking providers merely means vast waste and confusion – as has long happened with telecommunications and the telecommunications spectrum.
The first bunch of contractors were deemed to too expensive and were replaced by those willing to giving a go using lower labour rates in order to meet NBN Co. cost targets A recipe for disaster.
And why were they too expensive ?, factored in a very high premium on the basis of the Labor Government being brought down by the Media and The Opposition and the NBN being destroyed which was Abbotts promise at the time. Subsequently the negotiations were on the basis of all risk by the NBN, reducing contract loading, however delays due to the state of the inground infrastructure and delays through councils has added to costs for the contractors and subbies and the NBN and government, thus making NBN work less attractive and leading to a perceived skills shortage.
Note the impact on the share prices of tghe Syntheo partners over the NT contract, obviously there had been plenty of fat for the Prime Contractors