Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1617      November 6, 2013

PM’s cuts will hurt services and jobs

An Abbott government plan to freeze external public sector recruitment will lead to backlogs, delays and the loss of regional jobs, the union representing Commonwealth public sector workers warns.

In order to meet its election target of cutting 12,000 public servants over two years, the Abbott government has ordered that from October 31 almost no one can be hired from outside the Australian Public Service to fill vacancies.

Under the new rules agencies can only move existing public servants into vacant jobs, leaving gaps elsewhere. Vacancies must be filled by internal applicants or by staff redeployed from other departments.

Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood condemned the decision.

“The government can try and dress it up any way they like, but this is simply a massive staff cut,” said Ms Flood. “This decision is particularly tough on regional communities who will lose jobs because there isn’t another Commonwealth agency to provide staff to fill vacancies. We call on the government to change this new policy to allow agencies to fill vacant positions locally and guarantee regional jobs are not lost.

“Agencies will be forced to cope with dwindling staff numbers rather than providing vital services to the public and quality advice to the government,” Ms Flood said.

The union also said the move would shut the door on people seeking a career in the public service; that public sector jobs are sought after by many Australians, particularly in regional Australia. The decision is bad news for the many people looking to join the public service.

“We will be holding the government to account for the many delays and backlogs that will flow from this short-sighted decision.”

Meanwhile, in the Northern Territory, the CPSU warns the education of NT schoolchildren will suffer if key support and administrative roles go because of cuts. More than 150 school-based and department positions in everything from IT support and counselling to vocational training and manning the front office are set to disappear from schools under wide-ranging cuts announced by the NT government.

While some of the affected staff will be offered the chance to take up teaching or other roles in regional schools, the remaining 100 will either be redeployed to another job within the Northern Territory Public Sector, offered redundancy, or their contracts not renewed.

CPSU regional secretary Kay Densley said the children will be the ones who will ultimately pay the price for these cuts.

“These people offer vital support to teachers in the classroom. They make sure kids with behavioural issues do not disrupt the class, computers are working, school functions run smoothly and that those kids who want to pursue a trade are on the right path. If they go, then so too do those services and that will put extra pressure on the class teacher and put Territory kids at risk,” Ms Densley said.

This comes on top of already announced teacher cuts and as yet unannounced cuts that will see at least 30 school-based administrative positions go next year. Many fill important safety roles in schools, such as first aid officers and fire wardens.

“A lot of NT kids already struggle in the classroom and cuts like these are going to make it harder for teachers to do their job.”

Ms Densley is calling on Education Minister Peter Chandler to reverse his decision and put the people back into their roles. “The Minister seems to characterise these important roles as back office bureaucrats. That is both wrong and insulting. They are the backbone of schools and without them teachers are unable to do the jobs to the best of their abilities,” she added.

The cuts include: 186 Education Department staff, of which 85 are being redeployed to regional areas, leaving 71 staff to find alternative employment in the public sector, face redundancy or, if they are on temporary contracts, not have their contract renewed. On top of this are 30 school-based administrative support staff in schools, of which 20 are permanent employees and 10 believed to be on temporary contracts.

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