Extra crews have been brought in from neighbouring regions to help restore power to Coffs Coast residents.
Extra crews have been brought in from neighbouring regions to help restore power to Coffs Coast residents. Rob Wright

North Coast could be plunged into darkness amidst strike

THE North Coast's energy network will be left almost entirely unmanned as 150 Essential Energy staff go on strike without leaving a skeleton workforce.

Electrical Trades Union members make up 90% of Essential Energy field staff, and every member has agreed to walk off the job from Monday week over a long-running industrial dispute with the company.

More than 120 workplaces, depots and control rooms across New South Wales will be left without any union members doing their jobs over 20 consecutive four-hour stoppages.

Among those will be depots in Grafton, Lismore, Tweed and Coffs Harbour and other North Coast locations.

ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said the company planned to cut 800 jobs, of which about 40 would come from the North Coast.

"In this industry, that would take about $4 million out of the local economy," Mr Butler said.

"Good jobs are synonymous with good families and being able to live in regional NSW," he said.

"Without a job, a family can't survive."

It will be the first time since the industrial action began earlier this year that all ETU members will take part, without providing a skeleton staff.

It could leave the North Coast power network open to black-outs with no one qualified to rectify them.

"Unfortunately, this means the stoppage may impact on electricity services for some in the community, but customers can blame management and the NSW Government for their lack of will to resolve this matter," Mr Butler said.

"We are sick of National Party politicians saying they represent regional NSW and want to protect regional jobs," he said.

"We haven't heard a peep from them about the 800 jobs being axed out of Essential Energy.

"At the same time, workers in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong for electrical distributors Ausgrid and Endeavour have a five-year job guarantee.

"There are no guarantees for the regions."

When asked how the network could safely run without union members working, Mr Butler said it was "up to management to work out".

Essential Energy acting chief executive officer Gary Humphreys said the action showed "a complete disregard for safety, network reliability and customers, including the many life support customers on Essential Energy's network".

"The unions also seem set on adding to an already challenging situation rather than helping to move the discussion towards an outcome that meets the needs of employees, customers and the business," Mr Humphreys said.

- ARM NEWSDESK



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