Government must act on Services Australia

The union representing the public sector including Centrelink workers, the CPSU, is calling on the government to make all necessary changes to ensure that every Australian that needs to access our safety net, can do so quickly and remotely.

Tens of thousands of Australians have lost their jobs and they are looking to the Morrison government for support and certainty and we know that there are going to be thousands and thousands more.

Hundreds of thousands of contacts have already been made already this week. There is no doubt that Centrelink and Services Australia staff are working longer and harder than ever before trying to meet this unprecedented surge. But the government must be willing to work just as hard, and work collaboratively to get this job done.

The CPSU is calling on immediate and resolute action from the Morrison Government to ensure the safety and access of essential public services. This means:

  • Front-line Centrelink workers must have their health and safety taken seriously. That means social distancing and sanitation enforcement, even if this means moving workers or call centres to other buildings - nothing should be off the table;
  • Front line services in Services Australia and Centrelink, particularly on the phone lines, have to be ramped up that means more public sector staff hires and other public sector workers helping with the front-line services, particularly on phones and processing claims.

The government must make the following changes to Centrelink systems;

  • Backdate the payment date of new applications to the day people lost employment or shifts; 
  • Applying new benefit arrangements immediately – the delayed date of effect for new payments and waived evidence requirements is driving further queries to Centrelink workers, creating additional work and double-handling;
  • Suspend mutual obligations indefinitely; and
  • Extend the employer partnering provisions to allow quicker processing for Australians who lose their jobs; and

For the safety of our members and the public, Government and Services Australia must move more quickly to facilitate access to Centrelink services over the phone and online – long queues outside of Centrelink offices are unacceptable, particularly at the height of a global health pandemic.

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said, “The time of action is now. Australians need transparency and outcomes. The government cannot fantasise cyber-attacks. It cannot ignore the lines outside Centrelink , it cannot ignore the six-hour phone queues, or the website crashing. It cannot outsource the Commonwealth’s responsibility to front line workers anymore.”

“Our members are trying their hardest to help the tens of thousands of Australians in the hardest time of their lives, but they are overworked and understaffed at the best of times. They need more public sector staff, and they need them yesterday.”

“The safety of our communities is key to meeting all health and economic challenges facing us. That is why Centrelink and Services Australia staff must be protected to ensure that services can continue to be rolled out as quickly as possible.”

“The health and safety of our front-line workers is paramount to the national response to this crisis.  There are no ifs or buts; social distancing must be enforced, even if this means moving workers or call centres to other buildings - nothing should be off the table.”

“These suggestions are practical changes that can be made today to assist the surge. At this trying time, our members want to help the government get this right, we all do. Our health and economy depend on it.”