The axing of more than 2,600 front-line power workers since 2012 has left NSW at risk of falling victim to similar chaos to that experienced in South Australia during the past 24 hours, the Electrical Trades Union has warned.
The union said cuts overseen by the state and federal governments over the past four years had drastically 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.
ETU assistant secretary Dave McKinley said the number of front-line power workers across NSW had shrunk by a quarter since 2012, leaving the state increasingly vulnerable to the kind of extreme weather event that struck South Australia.
“What has occurred in South Australia in the past 24 hours could easily happen in NSW,” Mr 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 1,385 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 front-line power workers.
“The people of NSW have been hung out to dry by the NSW Government, with these massive cuts inevitably going to lead to major disruptions when future disasters strike.”
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 focusing 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.”