Crisis point for Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support prompts industrial action

Staff in the Department of Human Services are preparing for six days of targeted industrial action over the continuing damage caused by senior management and the Turnbull Government, including through the stalled enterprise bargaining process and the Centrelink robo-debt crisis.

Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support workers will strike and take other forms of industrial action at various times and various locations on February 13th, 15th, 17th, 20th, 22nd and 24th.

Staff providing critical services, including those dealing with customers unfairly targeted by the flawed automated debt recovery, will not participate.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “The Turnbull Government has rightly been condemned over the Centrelink automated debt debacle, but the problems go far deeper in the Department of Human Services because of years of budget cuts and the Government’s harsh and illogical public sector bargaining policy.”

“There are 34,000 hardworking Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support staff who’ve gone more than three years without a pay rise as they’ve fought for a new enterprise agreement. Budget cuts and the 5,000 jobs that have been slashed from this agency also mean these workers are finding it more and more difficult to provide the quality services that the Australian public needs and deserves.”

“It’s important to emphasise that this industrial action is targeted at the Turnbull Government and its ideological attacks on DHS, along with the senior management that’s blindly followed that agenda. Our members are doing this because they care about the quality of the services they provide, which is why workers dealing with sensitive clients such as those being dragged through the robo-debt crisis will not be taking industrial action.”

“Our members hope this action will highlight the damage being caused to DHS and their plight through enterprise bargaining. Hundreds of them made personal submissions last year to the Senate inquiry into public sector bargaining, telling their personal stories of financial hardship and their worries about the enterprise agreement being pushed by their bosses.”

“These workers are among the lowest paid in the Commonwealth public sector, and stand to lose the most under the Government’s harsh public sector bargaining policy. Their pay has been frozen as the Government’s bullied them, trying to strip essential rights, such as the family-friendly conditions that allow a call-centre worker to balance shift work with raising a family.”

“The public deserves better from the Turnbull Government in terms of the essential services DHS provides. It’s also well and truly past time for this Government to give Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support workers a fair deal, along with each and every one of the 100,000 public sector workers still without a new agreement.”