A Filipina mother with lung cancer may miss out on the treatment she needs because her husband has lost his job in a change of Telecom contractors maintaining Auckland's phone lines.

The husband, who cannot be named because he fears reprisals from Immigration NZ, wept as he told the Herald that his wife was diagnosed in a Philippines hospital last week with a malignant tumour in her lung.

"I should be there at her side. I can't be there with her," he said.

"It will cost 130,000 pesos ($3800) for the tests they have done. They want payment for that before they will do a biopsy and operation. The biopsy will cost another 50,000 pesos ($1460).

"Now I don't have a job. How can I sustain my wife and her medication?"

The man is one of 43 migrant technicians, including about 30 from the Philippines, who were recruited by Telecom's former contractor, Transfield, to help maintain Auckland's phone lines.

But the new contractor, Melbourne-based Visionstream, can't employ them yet because their work permits were tied to working for Transfield. Immigration NZ is checking whether any New Zealanders are available to do the work before deciding whether to let them work for Visionstream.

Ironically, the checks include requiring Visionstream to advertise the jobs on the Work and Income website as salaried positions paying $45,000 a year.

Visionstream NZ manager Andrew Stevens said the company accepted that the migrants would have to be taken on as direct permanent employees to meet immigration rules. He said New Zealanders were welcome to apply for the $45,000 salaried jobs too. Fewer than 10 had done so.

A spokesman for the migrant technicians, Ariel Guanlao, said the migrants have been surviving since September 4 on $250 to $400 a week from donations to an EPMU support fund.

He said the Filipina woman with the malignant tumour was in a private hospital close to her home and would have to transfer to a public hospital 150km away in Manila if her husband could not pay for her treatment.

"The treatment is free in the public hospital but the husband will have to pay for the surgery and medication," he said.

"It's just a matter of fate."

Robin Kelly of Telecom's lines company Chorus said Telecom had asked Immigration officials to grant new work permits for the migrants as quickly as possible.

EPMU secretary Andrew Little said Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly also asked Immigration officials yesterday to resolve the issue urgently.

* The union is collecting donations for the Filipino worker's wife through its freephone 0800 1UNION (0800 186 466).