In-house staffing numbers at federal agency Services Australia has been increasing but has come under fire from unions jointly pushing for the organisation to be better resourced and for the government to make changes to social security.
The Community and Public Sector Union, along with a dozen other unions and not-for-profits, claimed in a statement this week more than 30% of the agency’s staff were in outsourced or insecure employment.
“The government privatising Services Australia jobs means less training and less security for workers and more errors and more delays for the community,” the statement says.
But Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen released figures showing the agency’s APS workforce had increased from 31,630 to 34,294 staff between September 2020 and September 2021, with more than 2000 non-APS employees transitioning to APS employment.
“We are at the forefront of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our flexible workforce has helped us successfully manage this record demand,” Jongen said.
The unions are pitching their demands for changes at Services Australia to federal election candidates, including a permanent increase to JobSeeker. The requests include increased phone and face-to-face services, and a rise in staffing for the Indigenous services business line and of social workers.
CPSU national president Alistair Waters said in a statement that union members at Services Australia believed the agency could “do better”.
“The people working at Services Australia have done a stellar job throughout the pandemic,” Waters said. “[But] Australians expect better than what this government is doing to our social security system.”
Jongen said the agency’s workforce size and composition would “fluctuate based on forecast and actual customer volumes”.
“[It] is heavily impacted by events such as natural disasters, pandemic events and changes to government policy,” he said.
“We are one of the largest employers of social workers nationally, to support people in vulnerable or complex circumstances.”
Jongen said the agency was already the largest employer of social workers nationally and had a dedicated Indigenous phone line with remote servicing teams that visit communities to provide support and access to payments and services.
“We help people through some of the toughest times in their lives, with a large national network of dedicated and specialist staff,” he said.