Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Xero, Orion say they can hire Telecom workers

Rod Drury, founder and chief executive of internet-based accounting software company Xero. The company is currently looking for around 100 new staff.  Photo / Mark MItchell
Rod Drury, founder and chief executive of internet-based accounting software company Xero. The company is currently looking for around 100 new staff. Photo / Mark MItchell

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

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

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, U.S 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 on the look out 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 currently 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.

The Business Herald reported last Friday that a chronic shortage of ICT skills is forcing software companies to carry out development overseas because they can't find local programmers to do the work.

With one website showing 1300 ICT vacancies in Auckland alone, pay rates of up to $1500 a day are being offered for some specialist roles.

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

"These jobs are going because there is no economic plan. Steven Joyce even admitted today that economic plans don't create jobs, we know for a fact his half-baked Business Growth Agenda doesn't," she said.

Curran said a source had told her that 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 yesterday 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.

Pirie 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.

At December 30, Telecom had 7530 staff, Pirie said. Six and a half thousand workers were based in New Zealand, he said, the remainder across the Tasman.

Telecom's share price closed down 3c yesterday at $2.225.

- NZ Herald

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