Centrelink’s privatised call centres a disaster, survey finds

CPSU staff campaiging against the privatisation of call centre work. Photo: CPSU

The disaster caused by the federal government’s policy of privatising Centrelink call centres work has been underlined by the results of a survey of Department of Human Services (DHS) staff.

The government has outsourced 2750 call centre jobs to private companies since 2017.

The survey of 1300 DHS employees showed 85% of staff believe private call centre staff do not get the training they need; 87% said clients wait longer because private staff cannot resolve their issues; and 85% reported fixing issues caused by private call centre employees.

According to the survey released by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), outsourced call centre workers are telling Centrelink customers incorrect information, unnecessarily transferring calls and making avoidable errors.

CPSU deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said of the survey on November 12: “This report paints the full picture of the [Coalition] government’s damaging and ideologically motivated attack on Medicare and Centrelink services…

“Whether you’re talking about the robo-debt debacle, the thousands of quality, permanent DHS jobs that have been cut or the decision to farm essential Medicare and Centrelink services out to profit-hungry multinationals like Serco and Stellar, this government has undermined the department at every step and continues to do so.

“Anyone who’s needed to access Medicare or Centrelink services in recent years knows that service quality has declined, including the 48 million callers who couldn't even get through on the phone at all in 2017–18.

“Critically, this report now also includes the perspective of our members who work so hard to provide these services.

“DHS workers know the inside story on why the services they provide to the community have declined under this government, with our survey providing damning statistics particularly on the use of labour hire and privately run call centres.

“Workers have seen the impact of massive job cuts and how they're also seeing the flow-on impacts from farming work out to corporate interests focussed on profits, not people.”