Datacom handed sensitive Immigration contract

The CPSU has condemned the Turnbull Government’s decision to privatise the Commonwealth call centre providing immigration services, saying it puts sensitive personal information and the quality of services provided at risk.

The newly created Department of Home Affairs advised the union earlier this week that Datacom has won the contract to operate the call centre, affecting 250 Sydney-based former Immigration Department staff.

Datacom has a poor track record in terms of the wages and working conditions for its staff. It rakes in sizeable profits from Commonwealth contracts – but at the same time may be artificially reducing its profits to reduce tax liabilities. Datacom has reported very low profit margins, raising questions as to whether it is using multinational tax structures to avoid tax obligations.

CPSU Acting Deputy Secretary Brooke Muscat-Bentley said: “This is a devastating decision for the 250 dedicated staff currently doing this work, along with their families, but also for the people who are so reliant on their assistance to navigate Australia’s complex Immigration rules and processes. Outsourcing this kind of work to a private company like Datacom means paying more and receiving less in return.”

“Datacom already holds Commonwealth contracts, including with the Tax Office, that have helped the company’s Australian subsidiary generate hundreds of millions of dollars in income while paying a tiny fraction of that in tax.”

“Staff in the current call centre are well trained and work under strict Commonwealth guidelines to ensure the sensitive personal information they have access to is protected. By contrast we have serious concerns about the training and protections that will be in place under Datacom.”

“This Datacom contract is clearly also a step back for the workers themselves. The people who will work in this new call centre will be paid less without decent working conditions, in contrast to the current call centre which offers decent jobs and scope for advancement into other roles in the department.”   

“This also has disturbing implications for transparency, which is so critical in ensuring public services are being delivered appropriately and efficiently. Not only will a private company have access to sensitive information, but it won’t be open to the kind of scrutiny that’s needed. Just this week we’ve heard disturbing reports that information about a crisis line for former Defence service people is being kept secret in the interests of a private company.”

“A parliamentary inquiry was launched late last year into just this kind of deal. The audit office recently found Commonwealth procurement through contractors, consultants and labour hire totalled nearly $50 billion last financial year alone, and the Turnbull Government is looking for even more opportunities to line the pockets of private companies through these kinds of arrangements.”

“This announcement is only the beginning: the Turnbull Government is also outsourcing visa processing, and are expected to announce in February which company will be awarded this work. This privatisation will threaten the jobs of up to 3,000 hardworking staff who are heading into 2018 facing an uncertain future.”