DSS heats staffing dispute

Issue 

DSS heats staffing dispute

BRISBANE — The Department of Social Service escalated a dispute with the Public Service Union on February 18, by taking the state PSU branch to the Industrial Relations Commission over alleged breaches of dispute settling procedures.

By a vote of 750 to 190, DSS members last month endorsed a campaign of office closures over under-staffing issues. Industrial action began on January 19 with 40 DSS offices closed to public contact after 1.30 p.m. Closures have continued every Wednesday since. Teleservice centres have been closed on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.

DSS pays lip service to client service, but in practice years of cuts to staffing numbers have meant a real decline in standards. The issue came to a head in December when the Queensland Area South management issued instructions banning recruiting, paying higher duties and overtime. This came at a time when staff were facing the busiest time of the year and overtime is necessary to make sure all clients are paid for Christmas.

The dispute has been a defensive one for PSU members; they are campaigning to prevent further cuts to staffing numbers. Even so, there has been no support forthcoming from the PSU nationally. While national officials campaign around the country for amalgamation, Queensland members have been left to fight rationalisations by themselves.

Rank and file members around Australia have indicated their support with messages coming from several DSS offices around the country.

Meanwhile, PSU elections here swept out the incumbent officials. Election issues included the handling of the recent national dispute and enterprise bargaining. The membership was particularly angry at alleged manipulating of results at a mass meeting.