NT PowerWater workers are heroes, but CEO questioned over deliberate understaffing

21 March 2018

PowerWater workers are heroes in post cyclone recovery: ETU

CEO questioned over deliberate understaffing

Ask Michael Thomson CEO of PowerWater about understaffing if your power is not restored.

The blunt message from the Electrical Trades Union follows revelations that PowerWater has deliberately left seven frontline electricity positions unfilled – the equivalent of approximately two trucks not on the road – despite ETU warnings about understaffing.

NT ETU Organiser David Hayes is extremely proud of the work ETU members are doing on the ground.

“They are heroes who are being let down by the company. They are working around the clock in trying conditions to restore power following significant damage to poles and wires in the wake of Cyclone Marcus. Most of the high voltage system is back up and running and crews are now concentrating on the low voltage areas,” Mr Hayes said.

“The safety of the public is at the forefront of the ETU members minds as they perform the high risk works. However, while the PowerWater PR machine asks affected communities to be patient, using the term all available resources are being utilised in the restoration effort, we don’t agree when positions remain unfilled.” He said.

Not filling frontline essential service positions in a cyclone – prone city like Darwin is a recipe for disaster,” he said

The ETU has questioned PowerWater CEO Michael Thomson and management on several occasions about the unfilled positions, however the responses have been less than satisfactory.

“We are left believing that PowerWater, in preparation for its move to a new operating model under the Australian Energy Regulator, is deliberately not filling front line positions due to cost cutting,” Mr Hayes said.

“It’s events like these where CEO’s make decisions on whiteboards without understanding the significant impacts they have out there in the real world”

Mr Hayes warned the understaffing crisis, which had significant impact on services even before the cyclone hit will deepen over the coming weeks as fatigue management and other health and safety issues kick in. We are also seeing the same patterns of understaffing across other areas of PowerWater.

“The ETU call on PowerWater to fill all vacant frontline positions so that the NT community can once again have full confidence that all available resources are being utilised. That all being said, our members will continue to do everything they can to restore power safely and as quickly as possible for the public, it’s what we do”