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Medway electricity key workers remember 40 years in power

Electricity key workers are marking 40 years’ service in jobs that help keep the country going.

From Press releases - 14 September 2020 12:00 AM

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Nearly 80 fresh-faced recruits offered jobs in the electricity industry in 1980 went on to enjoy long and successful careers working on essential electricity networks that power homes, schools, hospitals and the economy across the South East, London and East of England.

Two of those celebrating their staying power at UK Power Networks are Terry Chivers, who is 62, from Chatham, a project engineer and Ricky Thomas, 58, from Wainscott, a cable jointer.

Terry said: “The 40 years have flown by. When I joined London Electricity Board, I thought it was a terrific place to work and it has remained a terrific place to work almost all the way through.

“I’ve worked in Buckingham Palace, walked through the front door of Number 10 Downing Street and I’ve worked at the Houses of Parliament. I’ve worked in some interesting places. If you enjoy your work you will always do it and I’ve always enjoyed driving here and there, doing something different every day. You never know what will happen when you get in your car and arrive at a job.”

In 1980 Terry applied for a job where his dad and brother were working. His first role was to dig holes for cable jointers and on one occasion Terry, his dad and brother all turned up at the same job. He became a fitter’s mate, gained further qualifications and progressed as a substation fitter, building and maintaining electricity substations. His engineering skills helped construct new electricity substations in London.

Ricky joined the company in 1980 as a cable digger and progressed to become a jointer’s mate, then a jointer, working as a skilled craftsman on the underground electricity network.

Ricky said: “I enjoy working outside and we are never in the same place longer than a couple of days so we’re always seeing something new and travelling around the area. I get satisfaction from restoring people’s electricity supplies. Sometimes, after long shifts, your body aches but you know you must do as much as you possibly can to get people back on supply. 

“I have worked with terrific people throughout my years here and it is a bit like a family. Outside work we play golf, socialise when we can and go out for Christmas. You depend on each other so much that you trust in them.”

Normally, newcomers to UK Power Networks’ 40+ Club, which has 500 employees with over 40 years’ continuous service, mark the special milestone together at a party that recognises the important role of long-serving employees. This year, celebrating safely at home, they include skilled experts in electricity engineering, linespeople, cable jointers, substation fitters, HR, projects and connections.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UK Power Networks, said: “I recognise and celebrate the dedication and expertise of our employees, many of who have lived and worked in the communities we serve, for a long time. Their work keeping the power on is usually carried out behind the scenes, but it enables everyone’s everyday lives to run smoothly.

“Even for those who have been with us for many decades, 2020 has been an unprecedented year and I am hugely proud of all of our staff’s response to the many challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, with everybody working hard to keep the power flowing. Clearly we cannot gather together for our usual 40+ Club dinner this year, but everybody appreciates the reasons why and it remains a milestone well worth marking.”

Britain’s biggest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks, is listed in the Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For. The company owns and maintains the electricity network which delivers power to 8.3 million homes and businesses across London, the South East and East of England.

In addition to career development for existing staff UK Power Networks continues to run apprenticeships, with new starters due to join in 2021.

1980 factfile: 

•UK inflation reached 17.99%, unemployment hit a 44-year high of 1.9 million and Britain was entering a deep recession

•Council tenants gained the right to buy their homes from their council at a discount, giving many families their first step on the housing ladder

•John Lennon was shot dead in New York and Pink Floyd’s album The Wall hit number one

•Smallpox was eradicated following a global immunisation programme led by the World Health Organisation

•23.5 million viewers tuned in to watch James Bond in Live and Let Die on ITV

•Permed hair, shoulder pads and bold colours were the fashion

•Post it notes were first introduced