Morrison Govt must protect Centrelink staff

The union representing the public sector including Centrelink workers, the CPSU, says the Morrison government has failed to anticipate the pressure on Centrelink staff and must immediately act to protect both workers and the community.

As we have seen from the level of people accessing Centrelink offices today, people around the country are extremely concerned about their welfare and livelihoods and there are clear steps the government must immediately take to respond:

In this time of crisis, the Morrison Government needs to be providing clear and certain advice that there are other ways to engage with government services. This is critical to enforcing social distancing and flattening the curve.

To date, there has been a complete failure from the government to provide information to the community about how to engage with government services – this must be resolved immediately.

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 members is paramount to the national response to this crisis.

That is why the CPSU will continue to work with the agency to ensure that frontline staff have access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and that social distancing is enforced. It is also essential that the agency increase security at all locations to monitor and enforce safe centre capacity and social distancing in queues.

Due to the huge spike in demand the CPSU is calling on the government to backdate the payment date of new applications to the day people lost employment or shifts.

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said, “Today will be one of the hardest days of our members’ working lives. And it is a direct result of a failure of government to provide clear information to the community. The Morrison Government should have anticipated this surge in need, and the fact they didn’t or ignored it is as short-sighted as it is disgraceful.”

“The fact that we now have unknown ministers providing commentary and suggestions on this only now and via twitter is baffling. This is not what leadership looks like, its policy on the run and its downright dangerous in this environment.”

“There is no doubt Services Australia is understaffed and overworked at the best of times. Under normal circumstances as many as 55 million calls to Services Australia go unanswered every year. This is a direct result of staff cuts and increased outsourcing of essential services. It is critical that the government monitor demand and increase upon the 5000 if and when needed. ”

“Today we are also calling on the government to change backdating policy to give assurance to those seeking to access government support that payments will be backdated from when they needed them.”