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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Tens of thousands of local government and electricity network employees — who have spent the past fortnight restoring power and repairing community infrastructure following last week’s severe weather — are preparing for a return of wild winds and heavy rainfall.

The United Services Union, which represents employees in the local government and electricity sectors, praised the efforts of these workers, describing them as “unsung heroes” who deserved gratitude and respect for their selflessness over the past 11 days.

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USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said that while emergency services rightly received the focus of public attention during the storm event, employees of local councils and electricity network companies often had their efforts go under the radar.

“For nearly two weeks, tens of thousands of workers have undertaken long hours, often in extreme weather conditions, to restore services and repair infrastructure for communities struck by last week’s record-breaking deluge,” Mr Kelly said.

“Power has been restored to almost a quarter of a million homes, thousands of trees have been removed, roads have been repaired, services have been returned, call centres have been staffed, and the needs of the public put first.”

Mr Kelly said that while most in the community had seen life return to normal following the extreme weather, these workers had been working long hours to deliver the recovery efforts.

“Not only have these workers gone above and beyond for 11 straight days, they are now preparing for the potential impacts of another East Coast Low that the Bureau of Meteorology is warning will impact parts of New South Wales in the coming days,” he said.

“Intense rainfall and strong winds, possibly in areas that already experienced flooding last week, have added to the urgency of recovery work.”

The union said the commitment of these workers was even more admirable considering the major threats to their industries, with council amalgamations and electricity privatisation likely to cost thousands of jobs in both sectors.

“A month ago, the NSW public voted for a government that would press ahead with a power sell off and the amalgamation of councils,” Mr Kelly said.

“But workers have demonstrated their extreme professionalism by ignoring the threats to their own jobs and livelihoods, and instead pressed on with serving the community to the best of their ability.

“Unfortunately, future natural disasters may not be responded to in such as impressive manner, as amalgamations and privatisation result in a loss of local expertise and resources.”

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