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News : Centrelink, Medicare Staff in First Stage of Industrial Action
Dec 11, 2014 -- Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support staff will read messages of protest to call centre customers and go to work in casual dress in the first stage of an industrial action against their employer today.
But the Department of Human Services (DHS) has warned staff they could have their pay docked if they participate.
Earlier this year the department offered staff a new employment agreement, which would remove their super guarantee of 15.4 per cent and require them to work an extra six minutes per day in exchange for a pay rise of 0.75 per cent per annum.
Months of negotiations between the department and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) have failed to yield a solution and in November 15,000 members voted to take protected industrial action.
The union has directed affiliated call centre staff to read an information statement to customers throughout the day, before processing their requests:
Staff who delay customers by reading messages could lose pay. DHS staff have also been told not to wear their corporate uniform, and to use an auto reply for internal emails that reads:
"Thanks for your email. I am taking industrial action in support of a fair and reasonable agreement for all DHS workers. We reject the Government's low pay offer and cuts to our rights and conditions. "
The union has also banned the use of auxiliary codes, which call centre staff use to let their managers know what they are working on.
Staff in Centrelink and Medicare shop fronts have been told not to discuss the action with customers, unless they are asked why they are not in uniform.
A DHS spokeswoman said staff who delayed customers by reading messages could have their pay docked.
"If staff choose to read CPSU statements to customers and delay them doing their business with us, we will apply a partial work ban, which means not paying them for the period they read out the message," she said.
The spokeswoman said the industrial action was predominately aimed at internal and administrative functions and was not expected to have a significant impact on customers.
"The department is operating as usual and we have robust processes in place to ensure industrial action does not affect the delivery of health and welfare payments," she said.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the action was designed to send a signal to DHS management and Public Service Minister Eric Abetz, before more serious action early next year.
"We would prefer to resolve these issues at the bargaining table but until Minister Abetz comes up with a fair and workable bargaining policy, what happens next is up to him," Ms Flood said.
The union said no action affecting payments to customers would be taken over the Christmas period.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Involve Staff
More Editorial From Australian Government Department of Human Services
About Australian Government Department of Human Services:
The Australian Department of Human Services (DHS) is a department of the Government of Australia charged with responsibility for delivering a range of welfare, public aid, health and other services to the people of Australia.
Centrelink is a government agency delivering a range of Commonwealth services to the Australian community. Centrelink is a statutory authority responsible, through its Board, to the Minister for Family and Community Services. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has responsibility for Centrelink’’s day-to-day operations. Centrelink operates under the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Act 1997 which formally came into effect on 1 July 1997.
Published: Friday, December 12, 2014