The CWU continues to hear reports of small-scale NBN contractors being left high and dry financially by companies operating at higher levels of the sub-contracting pyramid.
In the latest example, contractor company CIVCOMM has been forced to go to court to recover the $200,000+ it claims it is owed by QC Communications, a contractor to nbn. CIVCOMM owner Karl Zakaria says he has unpaid invoices dating back to September 2015.
The CWU has raised this particular case with nbn but as yet nothing appears to have been done to resolve it.
A round table proposed by the CWU to address this and similar cases has not eventuated.
Unfortunately Mr. Zakaria’s case is not unusual. Nor is it new. The NBN project has meant grief for many companies, both small and large, since its inception.
The years of the FTTP roll-out saw at least one unpaid contractor ploughing up fibre he had laid, while in Tasmania Visionstream NBN sub-contractors claimed at one stage to be owed up to $15 million.
The original NBN prime contractors also took substantial hits to their finances, with joint venture Syntheo reporting a loss of some $20 million in 2013, prior to its being disbanded. Silcar was rumoured to be carrying losses of up to $60 million when it was taken over by fellow Leighton’s company Thiess.
The current federal government, when it came into office, said it would put the NBN construction project on a more secure financial basis by, among other things, guaranteeing a steadier flow of work to prime contractors and, presumably, establishing more realistic contract prices.
But any benefits from such moves do not appear to be flowing down to the lower sub-contracting levels.
The CWU continues to believe that the whole tender and contract system on the project needs to be overhauled.
“Both the government and nbn need to ensure better oversight of the whole chain to ensure smaller suppliers are not being taken advantage of,” says CWU President, Shane Murphy.