Centrelink workers sacked

A long queue of jobseekers outside Centrelink Dandenong in April 2020. 207585_01 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

About 420 Centrelink call-centre casual workers in Dandenong and Mill Park have been sacked in what a union has termed a “disgraceful attack”.

Some of the staff have regularly worked up to five days a week for the past two years, yet receive no severance or redundancy pay, according to the Australian Services Union.

The workers were given nine days notice before their last day on 30 October.

About 120 of the sacked staff, hired by labour-hire company Serco Australia, are believed to have been based in Dandenong.

According to Serco, their jobs were cut due to Federal Government’s agency Services Australia ending a contract with Serco as of 30 October.

Australian Services Union branch secretary Matt Norrey said the axings were a “really disgraceful attack on workers who administer the nation’s safety net amid a deep recession”.

“These workers are entitled to feel betrayed by the Morrison Government who should be protecting, not cutting, jobs.”

“It is the height of hypocrisy that the Federal Government releases its Budget one week saying it’s about protecting jobs and the next week sacks 420 people from Centrelink”

“This is not only devastating for these workers who are facing a Christmas without work or income, but will also have an impact on the millions of Australians currently reliant on Centrelink for support during the pandemic.”

Bruce MP Julian Hill, in his budget response speech in Parliament, said the privatisation of public services was on the Government’s agenda.

“They’re getting nothing—no redundancy; no pay-out—because they’re just casual labour hire workers.

“The government has privatised the Public Service and the government bakes in that privatisation in every agency—tens of thousands of casual labour hire workers.

“This is the world that the government wants to return to, accelerate and run towards in this so-called snap-back recovery.”

A Serco Australia spokesperson said the work required under the Services Australia contract had been reducing in recent months.

“We have and will continue to work with all affected employees to identify other opportunities including redeployment into other contracts.”

Most of Serco’s near-9000 staff were permanent employees, the spokesperson said.

“We only use casual employment where workloads are variable or short-term in nature to support our Government customers.”

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen said “thousands” of extra staff had been hired to support people in “this challenging time”.

“We significantly boosted frontline staff to manage the temporary surge in calls and claims and we’ll continue to respond in this way when the public needs us most.

“It’s important to note our service delivery partners are, and have always been, responsible for managing their own staffing levels in order to meet the contracted work and other requirements.”

Since March, more than $23 billion in additional payments and 1.7 million job seeker claims had been processed, Mr Jongen said.

The Star Journal contacted Government Services Minister Stuart Robert’s office for comment.