Union slams DHS decision to outsource call centres to Telstra

Up to 200 Telstra staff to begin work in October

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) fears up to 7000 call centre jobs across Australia are at risk following the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) decision to outsource Medicare and Centrelink call centre work to Telstra.

Up to 200 Telstra staff are due to begin work at these call centres – which are run by the DHS – at the end of October, putting regional jobs at risk, the CPSU claimed.

CPSU national secretary, Nadine Flood, said staff are shocked and dismayed by the news.

“There is a real and growing fear among workers that this government is hell bent on breaking off and selling off chunks of the public sector to its big business mates.

“Tony Abbott’s own Commission of Audit set a blueprint for outsourcing and now this government is wasting no time in acting on it. We have seen it with the decision to outsource Medicare payments to the private sector and now we are seeing it with Centrelink work going to Telstra,” Flood said.

DHS claimed yesterday that contrary to media reports, Telstra is not taking over Centrelink and Medicare call services.

“That assertion is completely wrong,” said a DHS spokesperson. “This proposed arrangement would complement our skilled workforce and would not impact our existing staff.”

DHS said it current arrangements, through the managed telecommunications service contract provide the opportunity for the department to work in partnership with Telstra to deliver basic telephony and processing services.

“It is important to note that partnering is not a new concept for the department of government. In the past, we have accessed similar provisions within other contracts to engage staff as required to meet demand,” the spokesperson said.

Under the proposed agreement, Telstra will be delivering services from DHS premises in Queanbeyan in the ACT, and Bunbury in Western Australia.

“Telstra may engage with a third party for delivery of these services and if so, this would also be from our premises,” the spokesperson said.

“Claims this work would be sent offshore are completely wrong.”

Telstra staff will deal with general, high volume transactions such as requests for replacement concession and Medicare cards, appointment bookings, general queries and other transactions such as Basicscard balance updates, DHS said.

“The bulk of these transactions are already being completed online or are in the transition phase but there remains a need to have staff able to handle these queries until the new processes are fully in place.

“By managing the work this way, our skilled staff would be able to focus on complex customer requirements,” the spokesperson said.

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