Last night in Senate Estimates, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Liz Cosson confirmed that the level of labour-hire staffing in DVA is 42% and that over 50% of processing staff are also labour-hire.
Secretary Cosson also revealed that despite the widely acknowledged increase in claim and client numbers, far in excess of what was predicted some 7 or 8 years ago, the Coalition Government had intended to cut the number of public servants the Department could employ.
The cause of the backlog and staggering wait times is the Coalition Government’s Average Staffing Cap which mandates that a Department can only employ the same number of public servants as it had in 2007.
This policy isn’t working. DVA’s own figures show that demand is only increasing. In 2012 DVA estimated it would have fewer than 250,000 clients in 2020 and that the figure would decline. In actuality, the Department has more than 320,000 clients.
Because of the ASL Cap and the increase in demand, workers are juggling an average caseload of 142 when a standard caseload is 70-80 cases. CPSU members also report that some colleagues are managing upwards of 250 cases because of the lack of staff.
The CPSU estimates that the real cost of using labour-hire is at least 50% more than directly employing APS staff, and that the work is ongoing. The Government could fix this backlog today by redirecting the labour-hire premium of between 25-50% into APS employment. This simple action would see a net increase of up to 400 APS staff processing claims, who in turn would have secure jobs with better pay and conditions.
Quotes attributable to CPSU Deputy National President Brooke Muscat:
The ASL Cap undermines Veterans’ Services, cuts working conditions, and has led to the privatisation of thousands of jobs across the whole of the Australian Public Service. In an environment where services to clients can have life or death consequences, DVA needs more staff, and staff with the experience to meet its clients' needs.
All DVA staff – public service or labour-hire – are striving to do the best they can for our veterans, but spending money lining the pockets of labour-hire companies instead of directly employing more public service staff means there is not enough of them to do the work.
Contrary to Senator Stoker's uninformed speaking points last night, suggesting that people choose labour-hire because it gives them the chance to be their own boss, our labour-hire members don’t choose to work for labour-hire companies because it’s better for them or its more convenient. It is their only option due to this Government’s bizarre and dangerous ASL cap.
The Government could fix this problem today if it wanted to, but ideology is getting in the way of Veterans Services and secure jobs.