Hundreds of Centrelink call centre operators at Dandenong and Mill Park in Melbourne have been sacked. Employed by Serco, under contract to Centrelink, they were informed on October 20 that they would not have a job in 10 day's time.
Australian Services Union (ASU) Victoria private sector branch secretary Matt Norrey said the sackings were a “disgraceful attack” on frontline workers administering “the nation’s safety net amid a deep recession”.
He said it was “hypocritical” of the federal government to release a budget saying “it’s about protecting jobs” and the next week 420 people are sacked from Centrelink.
The frontline workers face a Christmas without work or income and millions of people who rely on Centrelink for support during the pandemic will also be affected.
The sacked staff will not receive separation payments, or redundancies, because they are casual employees despite many being on staff for more than two years.
The ASU said a significant proportion of those who were sacked worked regular full-time hours on casual contracts.
Serco said the decision was made after Services Australia amended its contract to reduce the work it carried out. From October 30, after-hours processing work will no longer be part of Serco’s contract with Services Australia.
The work will be allocated to a telephone call centre network within Services Australia.
The ASU said it was urging Services Australia to redeploy workers at Serco call centres for the Australian Taxation Office and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Sinead McKinlay, one of the sacked workers, told the October 20 Melbourne Age that she and her colleagues “felt sick” when they received their notice to meet with managers.
“With our history with Serco, there is no trust … People knew something was coming … We’ve been given nine days’ notice because we’re casual. So it’s legal, but I don’t think it’s fair or ethical.
“There’s a lot of younger and older workers, and workers with English as a second language. They will struggle in the job market and face financial hardship,” McKinlay said.