The Department of Human Services has been forced to compromise on its plan to have Testra phone operators answer Centrelink and Medicare phone lines after a legal challenge.
As revealed in the Canberra Times last month, the department and Telstra were working on plans to have telco employees move into two of the department’s call centres and answer calls from Centrelink and Medicare customers. This lead to the main public sector union, the CPSU, claiming that it was the start of privatisation of public service jobs, but the DHS responded that it was only a trial.
The union challenged the proposal at Fair Work Australian and the two sides, the union and Tesltra, met through mediation. Following mediation, the Union sent a briefing to all its members, claiming that the DHS had been forced to make a number of changes to its plans. "The CPSU has secured the department's commitment to address our concerns about its failure to fully disclose and consult with staff on its proposal to outsource DHS call centre work to Telstra," the union told its members.
"DHS has agreed to halt any further implementation of the proposal, take the 30 October commencement date off the table, meet with the CPSU to share more detailed information on this proposal and the business case to support it."
However, department spokesman Hank Jongen dismissed such claims stating that the department hadn’t yet made a decision as to whether it not it would continue with its plans.
There has been no decision made on the proposed partnership with Telstra and implementation has not commenced," Mr Jongen said.
"Therefore, there is no implementation to 'halt'.
"As no decision has been made, there is no fixed implementation date.
"We are committed to consulting with our staff and their representatives about the proposal.
"Consultation commenced on 17 September 2014 and is ongoing.
"The proposal, if implemented, would not result in a loss of jobs and no work or customer information would be sent offshore."
The union responded by saying there would be no let up in its campaign.
Read more at SMH.com.au.
Anyone who has ever tried to get a qualified Centrelink or Medicare customer service operator to answer their query or deal with their complaint over the phone will no doubt have felt their blood boil with frustration, so imagine my horror when I read that there were plans afoot to get that other well-known customer service provider (tongue in cheek) to assist those in need of help.
Seriously, ask any Tesltra customer who has ever tried to have a problem resolved and the testimonial for the telco will not be glowing.
Aside from the union issues and the privatisation of public service jobs, this underlines the lack of commitment companies and our government departments place on customer service. Tesltra employees are not trained to deal with customer complaints and queries, the same complaints and queries with which public service staff with years of experience find difficult to answer.
Usually by the time someone has picked up the phone to try and receive assistance, they’ve tried all other avenues to resolve their problem and picking up the phone really is the last resort. Throw in that often when calling Centrelink or Medicare that the customer is distressed about a medical or payment issue and this plan is simply littered with holes and incredibly poorly thought out.
Do you think this is a cost-cutting exercise destined to fail? Or should government departments be looking at ways to streamline their operations?
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