Customers using Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services can expect longer wait times as a new round of strikes over pay begins on Friday in an effort to end a long industrial dispute with the Department of Human Services (DHS).
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members working in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support hope the strike will edge closer to resolving their long fight for a new enterprise agreement and the union intends to notify the department of further strikes in the coming weeks.
CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said thousands of DHS workers had been involved in the dispute for more than three years without a pay rise.
“We’re talking about part-time working mums on around $40,000 a year who are doing it really tough. All they want to do is hold on to rights and conditions that have been in place for many years and allow them to balance their working and family lives,” she said.
“This protracted dispute had gone on for far, far too long. It’s bad for people working in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support, it’s bad for their families and it’s bad for the essential services our members in DHS provide. That’s why our members are going back on strike.
“The department and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash have previously ignored the unacceptable disadvantage to working parents that this dispute is really about. Australians rely on this department to provide essential services, so the Government should start treating DHS and the people who work there with respect.”
Ms Flood said the Department of Human Services had 36 million unanswered phone calls last year and 5000 permanent jobs slashed.
The union said employees would hold rolling strikes between 1.30pm and 8.30pm today. Limited work bans have already begun.
The department has warned that the industrial action could reduce staff numbers in service centres and on phones, and recommended customers to make use of online and self-service options.
A department spokesman said the industrial action would not change the its position in terms of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement.