The restoration of electricity services to North West communities ravaged by a huge bushfire on Sunday could take a week or more, with local power workers warning that recent cuts to staffing numbers have drastically reduced their ability to replace damaged infrastructure.
The Electrical Trades Union said members at the NSW Government-owned electricity network operator Essential Energy reported that the bushfire that claimed more than 30 homes had also destroyed 280 power poles and damaged hundreds of kilometers of power lines.
ETU deputy secretary Dave McKinley said residents returning to fire ravaged areas around Uarbry, Leadville and Cassilis faced being without electricity for days to come as a reduced number of maintenance crews worked around the clock to restore services.
“This is a massive repair job by any standard, but exhausted power workers have told the union their efforts to restore electricity services to these regional communities has been made substantially harder due to massive staffing cuts implemented by the NSW Government,” Mr McKinley said.
“Essential Energy crews have been sent from as far away as the Riverina and North Coast to assist with this repair work, but even with these additional resources there simply aren’t enough workers on the ground to restore power quickly following a natural disaster of this scale.
“The National Party has been caught with its pants down by this fire which has exposed as false their repeated claims before the 2015 election that they had saved Essential Energy.”
Mr McKinley said major Essential Energy depots in nearby regional centres such as Dubbo, Mudgee, Parkes and Forbes had lost up to a third of their workforce in recent years, while the company had just commenced a further 600 job cuts across the rural and regional power network.
“Since the Liberals and Nationals took power in 2011, we’ve seen the number of front-line electricity workers at Essential Energy slashed,” he said.
“Regional electricity customers pay some of the highest electricity prices in the country, so it shouldn’t be unreasonable for them to expect an appropriate number of workers will be available to restore power following bushfires and other natural disasters.
“Our members are doing their best to get power restored as quickly as possible, but with the scale of the damage — and the number of poles that need replacing — it may take up to a week.”
The union said local Essential Energy workers were upset by the pace of the response, saying they felt let down by the decisions of management and the NSW Government to drastically reduce workforce numbers.
“The distress of many victims of this bushfire has been amplified by delays with power restoration,” Mr McKinley said.
“While this is clearly the fault of Essential Energy management and the NSW Government, who are responsible for slashing regional electricity jobs, that doesn’t make things any easier for front-line workers.
“The union is encouraging Essential Energy management to at least seek to mitigate the problem by calling on the new owners of Ausgrid — which has depots just half an hour away — to send additional resources to assist with restoring power to these regional communities as quickly as possible.”
ETU Media Releases
ETU Media Releases
24hr Media Enquiries: 0408 231 858
Staffing cuts delay power restoration for bushfire ravaged communities of Uarbry, Leadville and Cassilis
Paul Lister - Wednesday, February 15, 2017
- Tathra fires: Government and power regulator may have questions to answer on network funding cuts
- Dubbo: Troy Grant must intervene to save jobs and services following revelation of Essential Energy closure plan
- Ombudsman reveals leap in complaints from NSW consumers as power prices surge and service levels drop
- Industrial action postponed at nation’s largest electricity distributor after conditional in-principle agreement reached
- NSW power workers vote overwhelming to take industrial action over stalled negotiations
- Canberra: Industrial action hits NASA Deep Space Network after negotiations break down with CSIRO management.
- Unpaid workers robbed of more than $40,000 by dodgy NBN subcontractor
- Safety Inspectors shut down $200m Opera House Works
- Electricians again walk off $200m Opera House renovation over safety fears followings asbestos tests
- Unions forced to call off ban on training Ausgrid’s overseas replacement workers; call on owners to intervene
- ActewAGL (3)
- AMPControl (1)
- Ausgrid (51)
- Electrical Contracting (10)
- Electrical Servicing (5)
- Endeavour Energy (37)
- Essential Energy (66)
- Federal Election 2013 (2)
- Federal Government (2)
- General Notices (3)
- General Trade (5)
- Generation (9)
- Manufacturing (2)
- Networks NSW (45)
- NSW Government (84)
- OH&S (15)
- Rail (2)
- Snowy Hydro (1)
- Stop the Sell Off (29)
- TransGrid (11)