Fire risk: ETU WA chief Les Maclaughlin has warned job cuts could put more pressure on Western Power’s already strained regional maintenence. Photo: ETU WAWESTERN Australia’s electrical union has warned bushfire safety could be seriously undermined if Western Power’s cuts to maintenance and support staff across WA go ahead.
The State Government is currently preparing to privatize the network and company, according to Electrical Trades Union chiefLes Maclaughlin, with the first round of voluntary redundancies announced last week being the first step.
The cuts will affect more than 200 full-time positions in WA, with substations and depots in the Peel and Murray areas expected to be affected.
Mr Maclauglin and the ETU have rejected the government’s plan, saying it would not remedy the state’s debt problems and would only place more pressure on the already stretched network.
“Privatisation is not the solution for the government’s debt problems, and will only lead to higher prices and poorer quality services, as private companies try to squeeze every last dollar of profit for their shareholders,” he said.
“If poles and wires are sold to the private sector, they will only invest in the network when it is profitable for them to do so.
“This could result in many parts of the network being left to decay, with disastrous consequences during bushfire season.”
Mr McLaughlan said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which left 150 people dead, found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the most devastating blazes.
“This tragic case study highlights the very real dangers of electricity privatisation to the community,” said Mr McLaughlan.
Mr Maclaughlin said the cuts would especially affect areas that had been damaged by bushfires recently, including the townships of Waroona and Yarloop and surrounding areas, where power infrastructure was still not secure.
“With the growing threat of bushfire in WA, we can’t afford to take risks with the maintenance of our electricity network.
“Colin Barnett needs to learn from the failures of privatisation around Australia and around the world and leave WA’s electricity system in public ownership.”
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