Ausgrid defends authorised worker movements

Ausgrid has hit back at calls from the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) to stop its workers travelling in and out of the locked-down Newcastle, Hunter and Greater Sydney (incorporating the Central Coast) regions due to the heightened risk of COVID-19.

ETU NSW & ACT Branch Secretary, Allen Hicks, said the union had repeatedly raised concerns after Ausgrid employees from Newcastle and the Hunter were told to travel to the Ourimbah depot for work, while it was under the Greater Sydney lockdown.

Hicks said much of the work was non-essential and included routine maintenance.

With Newcastle and the Hunter now also in lockdown, the ETU is calling on Ausgrid to allow workers to remain in their local areas.

“Ausgrid has been putting its workers, their families and the broader community at unnecessary risk,” Hicks said.

“Ausgrid continues to flaunt public health exemptions by directing staff to travel in and out of locked-down areas for non-essential work.

“We understand that from time to time workers may have to travel in and out of locked down areas for emergencies, but to direct them to do so for non-essential work is putting productivity ahead of safety.

“We’re in the middle of an unprecedented outbreak in NSW with much of the spread linked to workplaces.

“Ausgrid should be taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of its workers and the public, not bending the rules.

But an Ausgrid spokesperson said there have been no identified or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Ausgrid or PLUS ES worksites across Greater Sydney, Newcastle or the Hunter regions since March.

“Ausgrid employees are authorised workers under the Public Health Orders (PHO),” the spokesperson said.

“Ausgrid continues to stringently follow PHOs and also has a comprehensive COVID-19 safety management plan, which is widely available and communicated to all staff on a daily basis.

“Where staff are unable to work from home, they work on sites isolated from the community, doing critical maintenance to keep the lights on while adhering to all Public Health Orders.

“Ausgrid supplies power to more than 1.7 million homes and business across Greater Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter.

“During these challenging times, access to reliable power is more important than ever before as people work and learn from home, therefore all maintenance work undertaken on the grid is critical.

“The last thing we want to see is extensive blackouts or loss of power to customers during stay at home orders, which is why we need to continue with our critical maintenance program.

Terry Collins