Software firms offer hope for Telecom staff

Xero and Orion Health able to employ some skilled workers to be shed by telco

Rod Drury's cloud-based accounting software company, Xero, is looking for 100 staff. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rod Drury's cloud-based accounting software company, Xero, is looking for 100 staff. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Software companies Xero and Orion Health say they will be able to absorb at least some of the skilled workers set to lose their jobs at Telecom.

NZX-listed Xero, which makes cloud-based accounting software, is looking to hire about 100 people, said chief executive Rod Drury.

Telecom, on the other hand, is looking to downsize and is not ruling out slashing 1000 jobs as it seeks to reduce its costs.

Asked if Xero would be able to absorb some of the skilled workers who could be cut from Telecom, Drury replied: "Absolutely, I think there's an opportunity there."

Although there was not much demand for workers in senior roles, the company is looking for mid-level marketers as well as software developers, he said.

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae also said the company could take on some of the skilled Telecom workers.

"A lot of the project work we're doing in many countries around the world, US Canada and elsewhere, we do the work remotely and much of it is now being done in New Zealand," he said.

McCrae said Orion was constantly looking for project managers, business analysts and consultants.

"People make the mistake and think it's all about coding. If you really truly add up the number of developers, I haven't done the math but I think it would be less than 20 per cent [of the Orion workforce] are true software developers," McCrae said.

If workers move from a utility organisation like Telecom to an exporter like Orion, McCrae said it was arguably a positive reallocation of people.

"We're creating wealth for the country," he said.

Orion, which has 750 people, is expected to hire at least 150 to 200 people over the next 12 months.

"Our preference these days is to locate those people in New Zealand," he said.

Labour's communications and information technology spokeswoman, Clare Curran, said on Thursday that Telecom was set to announce up to 1500 job cuts and that many of these "highly-skilled individuals would flee to Australia".

Curran said a source had told her Telecom would make the cuts this month and research from the Parliamentary Library showed it could add up to being the country's largest loss of jobs from a single company.

Telecom boss Simon Moutter said last month that job cuts could run "well into their hundreds" and would not rule out more than 1000 positions going as the company looked to reduce its costs.

Moutter said there was "no new news" on the job cuts and quickly referred all further questions to general manager of corporate relations Andrew Pirie.

"We always said [cuts] well into the hundreds, we never sort of said a few hundred. We made it quite clear it was a higher number than that. And that's our position," Pirie said.

He said the company could not yet say how many jobs would go.

The Herald understands cuts are likely to be a mix of compulsory and voluntary redundancies, along with non-replacement of departing staff.

Asked which areas of the company would be affected, Moutter said last month: "There is no area of the business which has not been asked to look very hard at everything we do to make sure we remove the legacy culture, the layers of middle management, the duplication of effort."

Telecom said last week it would axe about 120 jobs from the Australian arm of its information technology unit, Gen-i, leaving 60 people servicing and attracting transtasman corporate customers.

Telecom's share price closed down 0.5c yesterday at $2.22.

- NZ Herald

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