Customers at Centrelink and Medicare could experience delays this afternoon as staff around the country walk off the job for half-hour rolling strikes. Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen has urged people to use self-service apps or delay non-urgent matters. “We’ve got a range of arrangements in place to ensure that staff will be available to help those in financial hardship and those that need immediate support,” Mr Jongen said.
“Customer payments will not be effected by this industrial action.
“Not all of our staff are union members and we will therefore have a significant number of staff available.”
Union members will conduct half-hour rolling strikes from 2:00pm (AEDT) today and again on Friday.
“We believe the better option for the union would be to work with us to deliver an enterprise agreement rather than to disrupt our customers who are the most vulnerable members of the community,” Mr Jongen said.
The strike comes after years of failed bargaining under the Federal Government’s revamped public service pay policy, reports ABC News. The current workplace agreements for 165,000 public servants in more than 100 Commonwealth agencies expired on June 30, 2014.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says one of the major sticking points is a set of family-friendly conditions that allow employees to balance work and parenting responsibilities, which the Government is trying to remove.
The Department of Human Services has acknowledged that under a new agreement guarantees on conditions like shift times and locations would change, but said workers would be given extended notice.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said staff were frustrated that a deal had still not been struck.
“DHS staff work every day to help ordinary Australians but they’ve been doing it pretty tough themselves for three long years as the Government’s frozen their pay while trying to strip essential rights, such as the family-friendly conditions that allow a call-centre worker to balance shift work with raising a family,” she said.
“These workers are among the lowest paid in the Commonwealth public sector, and stand to lose the most under the Government’s policy.
“They want to go on strike, even though they can’t really afford to but they are absolutely desperate for Government to do something.”
Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has been contacted by ABC News for comment. People who support the actions of the staff have also taken to social media to show their solidarity.