The South Australian branch of the Communications, Electrical Plumbing Union (CEPU) announced on Friday it had halted the construction of the Eyre Peninsula Link project after receiving complaints about working conditions, including workers being forced to share personal protective equipment while working 40 metres from the ground.
“The CEPU is calling on ElectraNet SA and the South Australian government to investigate and ensure that workers aren’t being treated like they’re disposable,” CEPU SA state secretary John Adley said in a statement.
“The current NEM energy crisis illustrates how crucial electricity infrastructure is to households and businesses. The vitally important job of rewiring the nation needs to be done efficiently and safely to deliver infrastructure that we can rely on.
“Downer needs to stop undermining the safety of its workers on this important infrastructure project and treat its workers with the respect they deserve.”
The CEPU said as well as forcing workers to share PPE, there are limited first-aid capabilities and communications on site, and increased exposure to silicosis due to constant presence of dirt and dust in accommodation.
“If Downer can’t provide proper safety standards … can they be trusted to properly build a power line?” Adley said.
While the CEPU said construction of the project has been halted, lead contractor Downer Group said in an emailed statement on Friday that work on the “project continues to operate as normal”.
“Downer is currently in negotiations with unions on a new Enterprise Agreement that will cover employees on the project,” a spokesperson said. “Downer remains committed to working towards a negotiated outcome. The safety of our people, contractors and communities is always Downer’s highest priority.”
Sydney-headquartered Downer commenced construction of the 270-kilometre Eyre Pennisula Link project, an upgrade to the existing electricity transmission network supplying the Eyre Peninsula, in May 2021 after being awarded a $245 million contract by South Australian network operator ElectraNet.
The project will provide a new double-circuit 132kV electricity transmission line from Cultana to Port Lincoln, via Yadnarie. The project will also pave the way for a future upgrade to the Cultana to Yadnarie section to 275kV and includes upgrades to substations at Cultana, Yadnarie, Port Lincoln Terminal, Wudinna and Middleback.
It was estimated the project would take about 18 months to complete, with ElectraNet saying the new line is expected to be energised by the end of 2022.
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