Union calls on Top Energy to halt laying off 17 workers after a serious injury of linesman

By Mike Dinsdale

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E tu union wants Top Energy to halt its plan to lay off 17 workers after a linesman was seriously injured while working on storm-affected lines on Saturday. Photo / File
E tu union wants Top Energy to halt its plan to lay off 17 workers after a linesman was seriously injured while working on storm-affected lines on Saturday. Photo / File

A union wants Top Energy to halt its plan to lay off 17 workers after a linesman was seriously injured while working on storm-affected lines on Saturday.

The injured man is in Whangarei Hospital recovering from a cracked sternum, broken ribs and punctured lung after he fell off a ladder and hit a work vehicle in Kaitaia on Saturday, E tu union spokesman Joe Gallagher said.

Mr Gallagher said the incident coincided with members' concerns about fatigue, especially given the scale of the job cuts.

But Top Energy CEO Russell Shaw said the linesman was not fatigued and although he had been on standby duties, he had not been called out overnight before the accident.

Top Energy announced last Thursday a proposal to axe 17 workers, including 10 linesmen as well as staff who manage vegetation issues. The company has asked workers and the union for feedback, citing a combination of a downturn in its contracting work around the Pacific, the completion of major network upgrades, and new health and safety legislation for the need to cut jobs.

Mr Gallagher said E tu had emailed Top Energy, detailing its concerns for workers' safety in the light of the accident. The union is calling on the company to urgently consider its submission, which seeks halt the restructure until a proven fatigue management system is in place.

"Workers have voiced fears that the cuts are too drastic and will compound problems with fatigue and stress, resulting in more accidents," he said.

"We want the company to urgently consider what we've said in our submission, and halt its restructuring process so safety issues can be carefully traversed. There should be no job cuts until everyone is satisfied that workers will be safe."

Mr Shaw said an initial investigation had been undertaken into the circumstances of the accident.

"We are satisfied it was not related to fatigue. The injured worker was fully rested. He was on standby duties but had not been called out overnight. The accident occurred during the middle of the day when the height of the storm had passed," Mr Shaw said.

"Top Energy has an established fatigue management system in place which is continuously monitored, particularly during storm events. This policy was initially developed and has been updated in consultation with staff and the E tu."

Mr Shaw said the company's priority was for the speedy recovery of the injured worker and Top Energy would be supporting him while he healed from his injuries.

- Northern Advocate

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