Government cuts jobs

March 7, 2009

Government ministers have called on private employers not to sack staff in response to the economic crisis (a call that the company bosses have predictably ignored). Yet the government has been sacking its own workers.

The Australian Taxation Office recently sacked 133 staff in regional-based jobs the January 9 Sydney Morning Herald reported. ABC Online said on February 26 that a further 143 ATO workers based in Melbourne have also "had their contracts terminated to cut costs".

Those sacked had been employed on short-term "non-ongoing" contracts. Under PM Kevin Rudd, as under former PM John Howard, ATO management has continued to employ a significant section of its workers on non-ongoing contracts, rather than as permanent employees.

The contract system means workers can be sacked at very short notice.

The operations division of the ATO, which includes areas such as debt collection, tax refund management and business activity statement processing, has told unions of plans to cut the full-time, permanent part of its workforce from 82.5% to 35%. Under the plan, 25% of the workforce will be part-time, 15% "non-ongoing", and 25% will be outsourced.

Over 3000 full-time, permanent jobs will be lost as a result.

The job cuts in the ATO are largely a result of funding cuts by the federal government. In the 2008 budget, the Australian Public Service (APS) was told to make an "efficiency dividend" (funding cut) of 3.25%.

The Community and Public Sector Union has condemned the job cuts. CPSU assistant national secretary Mark Gepp wrote in the Sun Herald January 24: "The government is being hypocritical in calling on other employers to protect jobs while overworking its own workforce and slashing jobs through what is known as the 'efficiency dividend'."

In a February 24 update on its website, the CPSU said it is "totally opposed to any proposal that cuts conditions and reduces the number of permanent jobs in the ATO".

The CPSU is demanding a new agreement that includes no reduction in conditions, a 2% cap on the use of non-ongoing staff and for ATO work to be done by APS employees, not contractors.

An exception to the trend of cutting government jobs has been a recent increase in jobs at Centrelink to deal with the expected major increase in unemployment.

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