Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery has called on Ausgrid to explain why 15 linesmen were allegedly retained in the Wallsend depot on Tuesday while more than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power across the Ausgrid network.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) raised concerns with Ms Hornery about reports that workers had been forced to undergo a first aid refresher course instead of helping return electricity to homes and businesses.
"Training and first aid are very important and are vital for employees to have skills in, but when there is a major power outage like this, surely things can be rescheduled," Ms Hornery said.
"The ETU told me that training and courses have been rescheduled in the past when disasters like this come up, but management yesterday refused the workers calls to postpone the training and allow them to help out on the Central Coast.
"Workers on the Central Coast have been working overtime and extended shifts to try to get power restored.
"Ausgrid had office staff patrolling the Central Coast yesterday reporting downed lines instead of having linesmen on the ground making the area safe.
"It's a bit rich for Ausgrid to now be calling for assistance from the Army when they refused to allow staff to help yesterday."
Ausgrid released an update on Tuesday which stated that there were still 54,000 customers without power after the weekend's storms and that an additional 200 experienced people from across the country were joining Ausgrid repair crews working to restore power.
"Ausgrid technicians have restored power to 86,000 homes and businesses but customers have been advised to prepare for outages into the weekend after one of the biggest storms on the network in 20 years," the statement said.
"Crews are continuing to render safe 2400 hazards such as fallen power lines, fallen trees, damaged wires and in some places, floodwaters, as repairs, many complex in nature, are completed.
"Ausgrid thanks its customers for their patience in the wake of the widespread damage to the network and is doing everything it can to restore power as quickly and safely as possible."
ETU secretary Justin Page said the large-scale blackouts highlighted the impact of job losses since 2015 at electrical distributors.
"Our members have been working around the clock in recent days, desperately attempting to restore power to homes and businesses, but the fact is that with 5000 fewer workers there simply aren't as many highly-skilled people available to do the work," Mr Page said.
"Despite the network growing in size, and the risks posed by extreme weather and climate change increasing, staffing levels in the NSW electricity network have never been as low as they currently are.
"Extreme weather events such as storms and bushfires are becoming more common with climate change, so the prudent way to make the power network more resilient is to immediately stop planned cuts and begin rebuilding job numbers to take action on these risks."
Ausgrid said it was possible for some damage to occur days after a storm front had passed as trees, compromised by the weather, fall and impact the network.
Ausgrid is urging the public not to approach fallen power lines and to always assume they are live.
In the event of an electrical emergency, or to report a fallen powerline, contact 131388.
Some damage can continue to occur days after a storm front has passed as trees, compromised by the weather, fall and impact the network.
Ausgrid urges the public not to approach any fallen powerlines, always assume they are "live" and contact 131388 in the event of electrical emergency.
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