Jobs go as Centrelink shelves its expansion

By LUKE KEIOSKIE

COFFS Harbour has lost more than 100 potential jobs following the shelving of a planned expansion of Centrelink.

The government agency announced yesterday that funding restraints have forced the halting of recruitment processes to fill the $10 million call centre being built in Coffs Harbour, with Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen stressing the decision has not been made lightly.

"At this moment we won't be recruiting an extra 126 staff in Coffs Harbour," Mr Jongen said.

"Our budgetary situation means we can't proceed with our planned expansion of our Coffs Harbour call centre, although existing staff will relocate to new offices at the end of the year as planned."

Mr Jongen stressed that the current call centre is not closing and the new call centre is still going ahead.

The sod was turned on the site of the new $10 million Centrelink call centre on Mastracolas Road in October 2007, and most recently Coffs Harbour's largest ever single concrete pour for a building took place in January, laying down the slab for Gateway House.

When it opens, Gateway House will be the largest Centrelink call centre in Australia, with room for 300 employees.

"In the future, should the situation change, the new building has the capacity to put on extra staff," Mr Jongen said.

Federal Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker has called the news 'a disgrace'.

"This expansion was to be a tremendous boost in employment opportunities in the region," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"It's a loss to the people who use the service, it's a loss to Centrelink, and a loss to the local economy."

Mr Hartsuyker said metropolitan call centres struggle to recruit, yet regional areas have workers 'ready, willing and able' to staff centres.

Mr Jongen said Centrelink only reached the decision after exploring every available option.



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