The Electrical Trades Union has slammed Newcastle council's decision to leave a power pole in the middle of a Wickham street as a "cheap, insensitive stunt".
City of Newcastle chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said on Monday that the council had deliberately left the pole in the tarmac after an Ausgrid ban on working on live power lines had held up a road-widening project.
He wrote on Facebook that completing the work was the "only way to get Ausgrid to temporarily lift their ban".
The ETU's NSW and ACT secretary, Justin Page, criticised Mr Bath for "failing to take worker safety seriously".
"Jeremy Bath has totally misread the situation. This is a cheap, insensitive stunt that fails to understand the background to Ausgrid's pause on live line work," Mr Page said in an ETU statement.
NSW energy distributors Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential imposed a temporary ban on working on live lines after an Ausgrid lineworker died in April.
The ETU said the companies were working with the union, regulators and consumer advocates to review all aspects of live line work and launch pilot training programs for a modified system of live line working.
"Jeremy Bath needs to understand that worker safety is paramount in the electrical industry," Mr Page said.
The council said vandals had removed the safety barriers around the pole, on the corner of Foundry and Albert streets, last weekend, leaving it dangerously exposed.
Mr Page said a local power outage lasting four to six hours would allow the pole to be moved safely.
Ausgrid said it would work with the council to schedule an outage, but it was unclear how soon this would happen.
"Given the council has proceeded with the work leaving the pole in an unsafe location, Ausgrid will work as quickly as possible to schedule an outage to move [it]," the company said.
Mr Bath said on Monday that the council "welcome Ausgrid's announcement that they are in fact able to safely move the power pole during a scheduled outage at Wickham, enabling the City of Newcastle's road works to be completed".
"At the same time, we support the ban on live works throughout NSW until Ausgrid is finally able to address ETU concerns about safe working practices," he said.
The story of the power pole appeared in television news bulletins and news websites across the country.
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