The axing of more than 2600 frontline power workers since 2012 could see NSW’s power system fall victim to blackouts similar to those seen in South Australia during the past 24 hours, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has warned.
The union said cuts overseen by the state and federal governments throughout the past four years had reduced the number of skilled workers available to respond to major incidents, natural disasters and wild weather, leaving the public at risk of lengthy power outages.
“What has occurred in South Australia in the past 24 hours could easily happen in NSW,” ETU assistant secretary Dave McKinley said.
“While it is impossible to prevent network damage caused by wild winds and extreme weather, the ability to restore power for consumers is dependent on having the skilled workers available to respond.
“In NSW, we have seen more than a quarter of the entire workforce slashed in the last four years, including 1385 workers at Ausgrid, 446 from Endeavour Energy and 800 from Essential Energy.
“When the next disaster inevitably hits, this loss of skilled workers will have a devastating effect on response times and the speed at which power can be reconnected, particularly in the event of a state-wide natural disaster.
“The situation had been exacerbated by the NSW Government’s decision to respond to a recent ruling by the Federal Government’s energy regulator by further slashing the number of frontline power workers.”
Mr McKinley said the union was urging NSW power companies to send immediate assistance to South Australia in the form of workers and specialist equipment.
“Right now, our focus needs to be on helping the people of South Australia by diverting all available resources and skilled labour to assist with restoring electricity services,” he said.
“The union is calling on the NSW distribution and transmission network companies to provide urgent assistance to our neighbours in their time of need.
“We are also urging them to take a good hard look at the resources they have available moving forward so they can ensure they have the skilled workers and specialist equipment needed to respond to similar events when they occur in NSW.”