UNCERTAINTY surrounds the future of some jobs at Wendouree’s Centrelink call centre, after the announcement yesterday that at least 1100 casual positions would be scrapped nationwide.
The Department of Human Services would not say how many staff may be affected at the Wendouree site following questions from The Courier, but said full-time positions would not be affected.
A spokesperson said it was simply the end of “planned temporary contracts”.
“These people are engaged on short-term, non-ongoing contracts or as irregular and intermittent employees to assist with peak times of demand,” the spokesperson said.
“They came from additional funding provided in this year’s (federal) budget to specifically answer calls during the July to September seasonal peak period for customers receiving family payments – which is now coming to an end.”
More than 800 of the operators will leave on September 27, according to the Community and Public Sector Union, when their contracts with the department run out, and 400 more will leave at the end of December.
The union says pensioners, the disabled and families will feel the pain of drastically reduced customer service.
The losses will be felt at government call centres nationwide, including in Victoria at Wendouree, Geelong, Bendigo and Moreland, a union spokesperson said.
The cash-strapped department, the government’s largest, is facing historically high demand for its services with 70,500 outstanding claims for family tax benefits and other family allowances – almost twice normal levels.
Centrelink usually has about 13,000 claims for disability allowances and pensions on its books but now has 21,000, with 8000 of them more than 42 days old.
Community and Public Sector Union deputy national president Lisa Newman said the job losses would affect not only the discarded workers but the public.
“These jobs are important to every community that has a DHS call centre and the broader Australian community that want to effectively access these services,” she said.