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Telecom rejects Labour MP's job cuts claim

Friday 22 Mar 2013 8:11 a.m.

Telecom has rejected Labour MP Clare Curran's claim the company is planning to axe 1500 jobs in what could be the country's biggest ever set of job losses.

The company announced in February it would be making "significant" cuts across all sectors of the business in order to lower its operating costs, despite a rise in earnings.

Ms Curran says she has "100 percent" confidence in her sources.

"I've got sources inside Telecom, more than one source, and they're sources that I have the greatest confidence in," she said on Firstline this morning.

"I'm 100 percent sure of the information, and I think it has been said it's on the conservative side. But what I've said, I am sure about – that there will be 1500 jobs to go in Telecom, and this, in our biggest company, is perhaps the biggest ever single job cut ever."

But Telecom general manager of corporate affairs Andrew Pirie says Ms Curran doesn't know what she's talking about.

"I don't know what tree she's barking up," he told NZ Newswire, saying Ms Curran's claims were "a bit of rhetoric", but admitting the cuts could number more than 1000.

Ms Curran says the cuts will be made to "highly paid, highly skilled" jobs.

"They're the sorts of jobs that we can't really afford to lose from our economy. There is no doubt that Telecom needed to make cuts – I think most people would accept that it was too fat, but the question is why did it have to happen all at once?

"The other issue is where's the Government in all of this? This has been signalled for a couple of years, that there has been a big job cut coming, and Steven Joyce, the Minister of Economic Development, he oversaw the legislation change that separated Telecom – he should have known it was coming. There should be an industry plan in place in the ICT sector, it's our biggest-growing sector."

Mr Joyce however has ruled out any intervention.

"I'm not sure what the member would intend the Government do. Ring Telecom up and stop them changing their work programme?"

He says the growing ICT sector would "absorb" ex-Telecom employees, but Ms Curran says it's more likely they'll end up in Australia.

"When a company's looking at shedding 1500 highly paid people into our economy, which is not exactly growing in the job market – 23,000 jobs lost in the last quarter – what are these people going to do?

"Where are the jobs, and are they going to end up going overseas, going to Australia? We just can't afford to have that happen."

She says Labour would have developed a plan for the ICT sector, and been "a lot more prepared".

"Steven Joyce actually confirmed in the House yesterday in Parliament that there was no industry plan, that he didn't think it was necessary, and that it really had nothing to do with him," says Ms Curran.

"So I actually ask what does he do as the Minister of jobs and Economic Development?"

Telecom currently employs around 6500 people.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen says Telecom is making the cuts to compete with Vodafone, which has only half the employees Telecom does.

"It can't compete with the smaller, more agile companies and to become competitive it has to shed staff, starting at the top," he told Radio NZ.

Telecom has 10 employees earning more than $1 million a year, 35 earning more than $500,000, 198 on more than $250,000 and 2870 on more than $100,000.

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