Power workers braving dangerous weather fear pending staff cuts will impact future emergency response times

Power workers have braved treacherous conditions over the past 24 hours to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses as wild weather brought down trees and power lines across Sydney, the Illawarra, the Central Coast and Newcastle.

The Electrical Trades Union praised the efforts of thousands of its members who responded to hundreds of calls for assistance after heavy rain and strong winds cut power supplies.

ETU organiser Justin Page said that while most people in the community sheltered at home, away from the wild weather, thousands of electricity workers spent the night in driving rain and strong winds to restore electricity supplies and remove dangerous power lines that had been brought down.

“While most people were in bed last night, thousands of electricity workers worked through the night in dangerous conditions to protect the public from downed power lines and to restore power to more than 130,000 homes and businesses,” Mr Page said.

“What we saw last night was nothing short of devastation, and the clean-up task – including the restoration of power – will continue for several days to come.

“As always, electricity workers put the community first by working around the clock responding to emergency call outs, and the ETU believes these workers deserve recognition for their selflessness and committed service to the public in extremely dangerous conditions.”

Mr Page said that power workers were fearful that proposed job cuts in the sector – which could see more than 4,000 staff axed across NSW – would have a major impact on future emergency responses.

“If the Baird Government presses ahead with cuts of more than 4,000 electricity workers – including frontline emergency response crews – the public can expect to wait much longer to be reconnected following future storm events like the one we have just experienced,” he said.

“The people of NSW pay their electricity bills and expect to receive the highest levels of service during storms, bushfires and other natural disasters, however current service levels will simply not be possible with the frontline job cuts being considered by the NSW Government.

“While these workers were out in force last night, the NSW Government is continuing to refuse to sign a new workplace agreement that would provide reasonable job protections for them by ruling out forced redundancies at network businesses Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy.”