Sunday, 15 November 2020 06:06

Union criticises NBN Co chief for taking bonus despite cost blowout Featured

Stephen Rue has again come under fire from the CEPU. Stephen Rue has again come under fire from the CEPU. Supplied

The union representing workers at the NBN Co has levelled strong criticism at the company over the fact that chief executive Stephen Rue has given himself a $1.2 million bonus while overseeing a cost blowout of $6.7 billion and not taken 300,000 premises into account in the rollout plan.

The cost blowout and the fact that so many premises were missed in the rollout plan were revealed during Senate Estimates.

Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union national assistant secretary James Perkins said in a statement: "It's unbelievable that Stephen Rue is on a seven-figure, taxpayer-funded salary, and can't get the basics right.

"This really shows how plagued the NBN system is from top to bottom. We've been calling for an overhaul of the system for months, and this news couldn't be any more of a red light that we've got a big problem with our national broadband network.

"It's frankly outrageous that Rue is pocketing $3.1 million of taxpayer funds only to make mistakes like this, not to mention slashing 800 jobs.

"The NBN Co chief left hundreds of Australian workers without a job in the middle of a pandemic and a national unemployment crisis – only to then throw money away like this."

The NBN Co announced in July that it would be cutting 800 jobs, and Perkins said many of these would be people who were responsible for essential network design and construction.

"We need the Federal Government to intervene and get the NBN right. The latest budget is supposedly all about jobs – so why are they not intervening to protect these vital jobs from the chopping block?" Perkins asked

"Instead of throwing money into Rue's exorbitant pay packet and his project blowouts, the reality is that we need to invest this money into an effective employment model. What we have at the moment is a government-endorsed pyramid scheme."

"The NBN Co contracts work to their 'delivery partners' who then sub-contract that work to their 'principle contractors' who then either sub-contract it again, or hire low-paid, under-skilled workers to complete a job they haven't been properly trained to perform.

"It's not the workers' fault that they're not being offered the training, pay or hours sufficient to get the job done. Nor is it the customers' fault for being furious about delayed, failed and shonky installations.

"At each stage of the way, the 'delivery partners' get to wipe their hands clean of the mess they've made for customers, all the while pocketing cash and looking the other way. It's a system that is clearly failing customers, it's failing workers and it's failing taxpayers.

"The only winners are these middlemen who sit back and rake in the profit with no accountability for the mess they create.

"We're urging the government to throw the current pyramid model in the bin and replace it with a direct employment model like we have seen at Telstra."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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