Delta staff, management resolve to work together

Matt Ballard.
Matt Ballard.
Delta management has acceded to staff calls for more open communication with the public and promised to work together in future to fix the network.

The agreement follows staff concerns about the reaction they receive from the public as they do their work, following weeks of bad publicity for the company.

The joint statement from the company and its staff has been criticised by whistleblower Richard Healey, who said it was an admission the company had a problem, funnelled through the union.

Staff and management, with input from the Etu union, released a joint statement yesterday.

That followed a meeting on Monday where staff called on management to come clean on safety issues and keep the public informed about the dangers they faced.

On Thursday a committee of workers met management, including chief executive Grady Cameron, and came to an agreement about the future.

The statement said both parties agreed the network needed significant asset renewal work and its age and condition "presents a higher level of risk than would be preferred".

Nobody could change past decisions "made over decades", but the management of assets could change.

"Staff and management are committed to working closely together to complete the upgrades with a high level of safety, caution, and with public safety foremost in our minds."

The statement said the health and safety of Delta staff and the public who live around the Aurora network was the primary responsibility of the company, Dunedin City Holdings Ltd and the Dunedin City Council, "who ultimately own the network".

It said Delta workers were doing their best to continue security of electricity supply and public safety.

"There may be more periods of planned power outages as we undertake the network upgrades and ask the public to work patiently with us."

Members of Delta’s technical staff who had hands-on knowledge of reported faults and risks would be involved in how the company described events publicly.

"Finally, Aurora Energy and Delta staff have agreed to work closely together on an enhanced public safety advertising campaign, which will start in the near future."

ETu organiser Mike Kirwood said the company had been  receptive to  workers’  ideas, and to the idea of a committee that would have regular meetings with management in future.

Workers would be able to put questions to the committee that would then be discussed with management, particularly about pole replacement.

"They are going to meet regularly and deal with the guys that actually do the work.

"I think it’s a good result."

The committee was made up of staff members and Mr Kirwood. He said it represented workers across the board and  was a mix of union and non-union members.

"There’s still a lot of people who want more, that’s always the way, but I think we did pretty well to get where we are.

"Through that committee, we’ll be able to put pressure on them if they [staff] feel things aren’t tracking along."

Delta capability and risk general manager Matt Ballard said staff had been concerned about the level of coverage the company had been receiving, and the implications for them as they worked.

"What we want is the public to understand that the people with the Delta badges on, doing the work out there, they’re just doing their best to restore the integrity of the network and supply."

Power outages mentioned in the document related to the pole replacement programme, as the company would "get in and replace a number of them in one block".

The company would highlight those early.On staff being involved in how the company "described events", Mr Ballard said communications staff would try to ensure they understood as much as they needed to about a fault before they answered media questions.

Mr Healey said the statement was an admission there was a real problem with the network, "not, as Grady Cameron has consistently maintained, merely a problem of public perception".

He called on Mr Cameron to make the admission openly, rather than through a joint statement.

It was good the management team was listening, but "it is simply not credible for a person to say that none can change decisions made over decades, when the person speaking is in fact the one who, for almost a decade, has been making those appalling decisions".

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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