A quarter of all call centre workers at Centrelink will lose their jobs before the end of the year according to the Community and Public Sector Union.
Battling increasing waiting times, more than 800 workers were hired in May on a temporary basis to deal with the crisis and will be let go on September 27 when their contracts run out. A further 400 will leave at the end of December.
The department has been battling to stay ahead in recent times, dealing with 411,000 outstanding debts to the Commonwealth, more than eight times normal level, and 8000 more than normal claims for disability allowances and pensions on their books.
A department spokeswoman told The Age that “These people are engaged on short-term, non-ongoing contracts or as irregular and intermittent employees to assist with peak times of demand”.
Get used to hearing these words. When the contracts of the first batch of 800 workers expire in September, delays for those contacting Centrelink via phone will become unbearable and it is only expected to get worse.
The staff at Centrelink do an amazing job with the resources at their disposal, but at a time when their department is facing a record high demand for services and are dealing with an incoming Coalition government determined to cut public service jobs, the future is grim for those seeking information from Centrelink.
The department has made no secret that they operate on a shoe string budget and asked the Government for an additional $30 million of funding to man the phones between the May and September period. So what happens to these 1200 workers who no longer have a job? They are being let go at the most difficult time in the cycle to find a new job. Do they go back into the line to collect a benefit from the Government, similar to what they are being paid currently?
A spokeswoman for Centrelink told The Age that the additional call centre staff were employed to deal with increased demand during the peak May-to-September period, and that they were no longer required to meet demand. We will have to wait and see. My money is on longer delays, a steady increase in phone rage and the dissatisfaction of Centrelink employees reaching record highs.
What do you think? Are essential services such as Centrelink under-funded? Is Drew’s assessment spot on or is he scare mongering?