The closure of a regional Victorian tax office could see 121 public servants out of work if they are unable to move to another city.
Australian Taxation Office staff in Geelong on Wednesday morning were told their office was no longer viable due to building occupancy and costs, according to the Community and Public Sector Union.
The public servants learnt of a four-week consultation process leading to the closure of the Little Ryrie Street building. The ATO’s current lease at the office is set to expire in June 2021.
Staff have been given the option of transferring to another ATO office — with the closest being in Melbourne — or to find another public service job in Geelong.
CPSU deputy national secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch has called on the government to consider other options before it goes ahead with the closure.
“If this is about saving on lease arrangements then the ATO should look to achieve this by facilitating remote work opportunities for those ATO staff affected who want to remain at the ATO,” she said.
“The ATO has demonstrated that this can be done very productively and quickly as a result of COVID-19. The CPSU wants to see this offered as a real option for staff who wish to keep their jobs.”
Vincent-Pietsch argued the ATO needs all of its staff to deliver crucial services during the pandemic.
“The economic impact that this will have on Geelong cannot be understated, this closure will see almost $9 million ripped from the local economy. The CPSU calls on the government to ensure that the agency can keep delivering JobKeeper for Australia, by focussing on keeping their own jobs,” she said.
Shadow minister for the public service Katy Gallagher and shadow assistant treasurer Stephen Jones said the news confirms that the government “has no respect for public servants or the role that they perform”.
“This announcement is especially cruel at a time when ATO officials are playing a key role in the Australian government’s response to COVID-19. Uncertainty about where these public servants might be working or if their job will even exist at all in 12 months’ time is the last thing they need when they are working tirelessly in the public interest,” they said.
“Instead of throwing uncertainty into the mix for these tax office officials in Geelong, the Morrison government should focus its attention on getting basic details right like how many Australians have actually accessed the JobKeeper scheme to-date.”
The shadow ministers noted the 18,000 public service jobs, including 1657 regional jobs, have been cut in the last six years.
“These job cuts deprive communities of vital employment opportunities and access to essential services,” they said.