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EDITIONS
Sunday, 10 November, 2002, 15:37 GMT
Job cuts blamed for power blackouts
A felled tree
Fallen trees were responsible for much of the chaos
Electricity company staff cutbacks have been blamed for hundreds of thousands of homes being left without power after October's storms.

Union leaders are warning that a shortfall in the numbers of routine maintenance workers could mean more blackouts before the end of 2002.

Amicus, the UK's largest manufacturing union, says there are not enough staff employed to fell trees growing too close to power lines.

They maintained that worsened the situation facing householders who were cut off after storms wreaked havoc across the UK during the weekend of 26 and 27 October.

A worker carries out repairs
Up to 15,000 jobs have been axed in five years
The union is to present its research into industry job cuts to a government inquiry into the way power companies coped with the aftermath of the bad weather.

It estimates that up to 15,000 jobs have been axed from the electricity distribution network over the past five years.

That included skilled engineers and staff who check and cut down trees and branches close to power lines, officials said.

National officer Dougie Rooney said companies had reduced their tree cutting operations in recent years as a way of making savings.

Worse to come

He said: "If that work is not done, it is obvious that more trees and branches will threaten power lines."

Mr Rooney said that, although October's storm was bad, worse weather conditions were likely to come, threatening further blackouts.

Customers of power firm 24seven, which serves East Anglia, were among the worst hit, with some suffering more than ten days without power.

Teacher Louise Barrell, from Shepreth near Cambridge, said she had been complaining to 24seven for more than a year about two trees which were overhanging power lines and one which had branches actually leaning against a line.

A spokesman for 24seven denied there had been any cuts among engineers or workers who check and fell trees.


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07 Nov 02 | England
07 Nov 02 | England
06 Nov 02 | England
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