Drillers from Philippines hired for UFB

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012

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The outfit responsible for laying New Plymouth's ultra-fast broadband network says it has sourced labour from the Philippines because New Zealand's labour market has been "exhausted".

UltraFast Fibre, the brand that fronts the New Plymouth ultra-fast broadband (UFB) rollout, confirmed yesterday that drilling company Transfield Services had brought in seven experienced Filipino directional drillers.

One more would arrive next month.

Since July 2011 Transfield Services had been installing the new fibre optic network across New Zealand in partnership with its clients UltraFast Fibre, Enable Services and Chorus.

Ultrafast Fibre was responsible for building a 3000-kilometre fibre network, passing about 162,000 addresses in urban areas of Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Whanganui.

Transfield Services had worked closely with Immigration New Zealand to hire staff from offshore, UltraFast Fibre marketing manager Brett Morris said in an email.

Staff from the Philippines were hired because workers with the necessary skill base were not available in New Zealand, he said.

"We have exhausted the local New Zealand market over the last 18 months," Mr Morris said.

But a Transfield Services employee, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the company had had plenty of time to train New Zealand workers to do the job.

"The feeling is that the company could have made more effort to employ people locally to give people a career."

The whistleblower said it took only about one or two months to train a directional driller.

"But the company has known for about five months that they would be buying these drills and doing this operation."

The employee said Filipino workers were hired because they were willing to work longer hours for less money than New Zealand workers.

"At a time when the unemployment level amongst our youth is skyrocketing, particularly amongst Maori youth, why can the Government approve this kind of immigration?"

Mr Morris said the Filipino workers were hired because they were experienced drillers and did not require training.

The eight Filipino workers would be employed by Transfield Services for two years, he said.

All other employees to be hired and trained for the UFB project would be sourced in New Zealand, he said.

The UFB project had stretched the industry's capacity and resource pool, he said.

The government-funded project will see internet speeds up to 100 times faster than regular broadband rolled out across the country.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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