DSS bans over system failure
By Jim McIlroy
BRISBANE — Union members at Department of Social Security offices and teleservice centres around the country have launched a campaign of bans and reduced public contact hours over the past several weeks in protest at computer system failures, which have caused major disruption to the public and extra workload and stress to DSS staff.
Community and Public Sector Union members in DSS voted nationally to limit public contact hours to between 10am and 3pm, allowing extra time away from the counter to attempt to process huge backlogs of benefit applications and other work.
Anger at the computer failures which accompanied the department's attempt to introduce the new parenting allowance — a major change in the social security benefit structure — was heightened by DSS management's reassurances following a similar crisis last September, when the partner allowance system changes were introduced.
Behind the crisis is an attempt by the federal government to cut back the public sector, reduce expenditure on computer system infrastructure by contracting out work and operate public services on the cheap.
Social Security staff are fed up with being forced to carry the can for government and department failures.
CPSU members voted overwhelmingly on July 21 to maintain the campaign of bans and workload reduction measures until a satisfactory resolution of the current problems is achieved, and called for an agreement with the department for close union involvement in planning and implementing future major system changes.
After DSS management took the dispute to the Industrial Relations Commission, union members were to meet on July 31 to consider an IRC recommendation to remove bans on public contact from 8.30am to 10am "as a sign of good faith and to facilitate urgent negotiations". n