News : Public Sector Union Condemns Centrelink Move to Privatise Call Centre
Canberra, Australia, Oct 11, 2017 -- The public sector union has condemned moves to privatise Centrelink’s much-criticised call centre, saying it would give Serco access to vast amounts of personal information.
The human services minister, Alan Tudge, announced that a subsidiary of multinational Serco – Serco Citizen Services – would be contracted to help operate Centrelink’s call centre.
Tudge said the move would add 250 staff in a significant boost to the capacity of the call centre. Serco staff would supplement existing workers in the three year pilot program.
Tudge said the Serco workers would comply with all Commonwealth privacy and security requirements.
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The announcement is designed to address significant delays with the call centre, a source of constant frustration for social security recipients.
"This partnership will assist Australians who are accessing Centrelink services, and help reduce call wait times," Tudge said.
The department of human services recorded 42 million "busy signals" between July 2016 and June, according to evidence in Senate estimates.
Average wait times were roughly 28 minutes for the disability, sickness, and carers line, 30 minutes for employment services and 16 minutes for families and parenting. The wait time was worst for the "participation" phone line, at 38 minutes.
In the financial year prior, about 42% of the 68 million calls made to Centrelink were blocked. Another 7.12 million calls were abandoned.
The Community and Public Sector Union quickly criticised the Serco decision as an "absolute disaster".
The union’s national secretary, Nadine Flood, said it was an attack on public servants, a threat to the integrity of private information and a privatisation that would downgrade the quality of a critical public service.
"We are seeking an urgent meeting with the department seeking more information on this dubious arrangement," Flood said.
"Clearly this deal has been kept secret for some time if Serco is planning to be hooked into Centrelink’s systems in just a few weeks. Providing Serco with even the most basic access to client records would be giving the company a frightening amount of personal information."
The government will spend $51.7m over three years to fund Serco’s involvement with the call centre. Tudge said no services or data would go offshore.
Serco is due to begin working in the call centre in coming weeks.
#contactcenterworld, @centrelink, @serco_inc
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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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.
Serco’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) capabilities offer middle and back office solutions to public and private sector organizations globally. With a presence in ten countries, 98 locations and a strong workforce of more than 50,000 employees it is among the top 20 global BPO players with onshore, offshore and near shore capabilities in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, India, Mauritius, Philippines, Guatemala and Australia. With flexibility in designing solutions to suit client requirements, Serco’s BPO capabilities have helped clients to re-engineer processes across industry verticals such as Banking & Financial Services, Travel, Transportation & Hospitality, Healthcare, Logistics, Utility, Retail & Manufacturing, Telecom, IT & Online services, Media, Education and Entertainment. We provide transactional, process and voice support, finance and accounting services, and business transformation consulting, making us strongly placed to provide our customers with a broad range of end-to-end business services.
Published: Friday, October 13, 2017
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