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Centrelink workers join the queue as 600 axed

Jessica Yun
·4-min read
People queue up outside a Centrelink office in Melbourne on April 20, 2020, which delivers a range of government payments and services for retirees, the unemployed, families, carers and parents amongst others. - A report from the Grattan Institute predicts between 14 and 26 per cent of Australian workers could be out of work as a direct result of the coronavirus shutdown, and the crisis will have an enduring impact on jobs and the economy for years to come. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Hundreds of Centrelink workers will be made redundant at the end of October. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Yahoo Finance understands at least around 600 Centrelink call centre workers based in Victoria and NSW are set to lose their jobs at the end of October.

Around 420 Centrelink call staff based in Victoria’s Mill Park and Dandenong were told by Serco, contracted to provide call centre services to Centrelink, that their employment would end on 30 October, The Age reported.

But Yahoo Finance understands that a further 180 Sydney-based workers employed by IT services firm Datacom, which provides similar call centre services as Serco, will also be cut from 30 October.

The Datacom employees were told through an email sent by Datacom service delivery general manager Hadi Joweihan, seen by Yahoo Finance, of their redundancy.

“Regarding the upcoming cessation of the current Services Australia workload … The agency, during the overall Services Australia contract renewal process, has come to the decision to end the Ramp phase and as such Sydney’s footprint will be reduced and subsequently your position with us will cease effective as of 31st October 2020,” the email said.

“Your last day in this role would therefore be 30th October 2020.”

Workers will be paid any hours owed and accrued entitlements, but only permanent members will receive redundancy payments.

A Datacom spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that staffing levels would increase and decrease according to their clients’ needs.

“These positions were predominantly short-term contract roles needed to support essential services during the national Covid-19 outbreak response and as that need has waned, our contract with the customer has come to an end.

“We are working proactively with our employment partners, including outplacement agencies like Randstad, Beaumont People and Citrus Group, to help find new roles for these contractors in what is, we acknowledge, a difficult climate.

“In terms of context, we employ around 2700 people in our contact centre business throughout Australia.”

The Serco jobs were cut because Services Australia has amended its contract to cut the type of work it carried out.

“The company told casual workers that, following recent contract discussions with Services Australia, the after-hours processing work will not form part of the new contract from October 30,” a Serco spokesman said in The Age.

“Any remaining processing work will be allocated to the telephony [call centre] network within the broader Services Australia network.”

Yahoo Finance has contacted Services Australia and Serco for comment, but were yet to provide comment before the time of publishing.

Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten lashed out against the move, calling for his counterpart Stuart Roberts to account for the hundreds of job losses.

“Stuart Robert needs to explain why Services Australia is throwing more than 400 Victorians to the back of the unemployment queue,” he said.

“The Morrison Govt preach a lot about ‘Team Australia’, but are quite happy to give other Australians the boot.”

He described the job cuts of workers who were “manning the Centrelink safety net at this time of national challenge” as a “disgrace”.

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said in The Age that service delivery partners “are, and have always been, responsible for managing their own staffing levels in order to meet the contracted work and other requirements”.

Serco and Datacom are hoping that redundant workers can be redeployed elsewhere in their organisation.

Australian Services Union Victorian private sector branch secretary Matt Norrey said workers were entitled to feel “betrayed” by the Morrison Government which he said should be protecting, not cutting, jobs.

“It is the height of hypocrisy that the Federal Government releases its Budget one week saying it’s about protecting jobs and the next week sacks 420 people from Centrelink,” he said.

“This is not only devastating for these workers who are facing a Christmas without work or income, but will also have an impact on the millions of Australians currently reliant on Centrelink for support during the pandemic.”

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