Call to keep Centrelink staff

CENTRELINK staff in Coffs Harbour remain uncertain about what’s in store for them after the Federal Government announced almost 2000 positions would be axed nationwide.

Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker is furious and has called on the Government to rule out job cuts to Centrelink offices and call centres on the Coffs Coast claiming regional Australia will end up paying for the Government’s “waste and mismanagement”.

“Frontline services must be maintained across the region and residents must be able to access the necessary support and advice on the ground,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“To deliver local staff peace of mind the Government must immediately rule out any job cuts on the North Coast.”

He said given the high numbers of aged pensioners, disability pensioners and above-average unemployment in the region, it was essential no jobs were cut.

“The Coffs Harbour Centrelink call centre effectively services Australians right across the nation. The expansion of the call centre under the previous Coalition Government made the Coffs operation one of the biggest employers on the Coffs Coast,” he said.

“Currently there are approximately 380 people employed at the Coffs call centre and any reduction in staff would flow through to the local community.”

Mr Hartsuyker said regional communities can deliver call centre services effectively and efficiently compared with metropolitan areas where there are labour shortages and the cost of office space is at a premium.

“If the Rudd Government is looking for a money grab to pay for their $94 billion debt then they should look at areas where demand for services is trending down,” he said.

While Centrelink yesterday didn’t acknowledge where the job cuts would be taking place, general manager Hank Jongen said the cuts were adjusting staffing levels in line with our customer numbers and Government initiatives.

“It’s a normal part of our business, and like any business, Centrelink needs to respond to these changes,” Mr Jongen said.

“Centrelink has a flexible workforce and is used to dealing with fluctuations in demand. Given the downward revision in unemployment numbers, Centrelink staff will be adjusted accordingly to reflect expected customer numbers and demand for Centrelink services.

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