News : Union Warns Centrelink Call-centre Staff Facing Pay Cuts
August 22, 2014 -- Staff at Centrelink call centres in Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads are facing dramatic pay cuts, according to the union representing public sector workers.
The Community and Public Sector Union is engaged in pay negotiations with the Department of Human Services.
It says staff have been told their pay will be cut, and they can expect reduced penalty rates.
An earlier proposal was almost put to a staff vote in July, but the union indicated it needed more time for bargaining and consultation on the draft agreement.
Deputy National President of the CPSU, Lisa Newman, said they appreciate the need to cut costs, but the cuts now being proposed go too far.
"We absolutely understand and have been supportive of the move successive Governments have made to increase productivity," she said.
"But productivity has been so narrowly defined by this Government, that they are essentially asking people to pay for - well not even pay for their own pay increase, just give money back to the Government."
Ms Newman said the increased number of casual workers being hired is also a concern. "We know that in the Coffs Harbour call centre there has been a decreasing number of permanent jobs," she said.
"Those permanent positions are really important in regional centres, because once they go they're very difficult to get back."
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services said all aspects of the earlier proposal, including pay rates, are up for review.
"We remain committed to working towards an agreement we can put to a staff vote as soon as possible, and will continue to negotiate with all union and non-union representatives in good faith," she said.
The spokeswoman said a certain number of casual employees are required to meet fluctuating workloads.
"Due to the flexible and changing service delivery environment that we operate in, there will always be a need for a proportion of temporary staff to meet priorities and short-term needs," she said.
"The department employs a number of casual employees to assist with workload peaks during the year."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, August 25, 2014