Corporate profits and Liberal spin won’t fix Centrelink service standards

The CPSU says profit-hungry corporations providing low wages and insecure work are not the answer to Centrelink’s declining service standards.

The Turnbull Government has today announced further privately operated call centres to deal with complex and sensitive Centrelink cases.

The announcement means the Government will be giving an estimated $200 million per year to multinational corporations Stellar, Datacom, Concentrix and Serco to profit from Centrelink services.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Let’s make no bones about it. These call centres are being set up to generate fat profits for these multinational corporations, not help ordinary Australians struggling with declining Centrelink services standards. Centrelink desperately needs more well trained permanent staff, but is instead being forced to cannibalise its own workforce and resources to pay for this ideological folly.”

“Minister Michael Keenan is trying to pretend private call centres are the quickest and easiest way to improve Centrelink services. But this costly process has taken months while there are empty desks in Centrelink offices around the country that could be filled almost immediately to provide the quality services that come with decent pay and comprehensive training.”

“Family support and the other cases that Centrelink workers deal with are extremely complex and sensitive, and staff have detailed knowledge of the relevant legislation to provide genuine help. The community expects to deal with professionals, not get shunted around private call centres staffed by people being paid thousands of dollars less, with massive staff turnover. Often these wasted hours on the phone only end when clients are transferred to a direct Centrelink employee who knows what they’re talking about.”

“The clear indications are that these privately employed call centre workers will not be the much needed additional capacity that Centrelink needs. The Turnbull Government’s already slashed more than 5,000 permanent jobs from the Department of Human Services and it appears the cost of these new private contracts will come out of DHS’s existing Budget.”

“The Turnbull Government is selling off Centrelink piece by piece, proving once again that it cares only about its corporate mates. That’s terrible news for Centrelink and the thousands of families and vulnerable Australians who interact with this agency. Minister Michael Keenan’s smoke and mirrors doesn’t change the fact that Centrelink staff numbers have gone down as corporate operations ramp up.”

“These four companies, Serco, Stellar, Datacom and Concentrix don’t care about Centrelink clients or their employees working hard to help people. These corporations will be subjecting their workforce to barely liveable wages, insecure work and dodgy working conditions. The Government will be paying millions while a company like Serco pays its workers just $20.90 an hour. It’s repulsive and we deserve better from our Government.”