Workers at Centrelink are opposing the scandalous “robo-debt” collection process, despite bullying and the threats of action under their Code of Conduct. Whistleblowers have fed crucial information about the scheme to the media.

Despite the censorship preventing public servants from speaking out, the CPSU has distributed flyers explaining to clients that Centrelink workers oppose the robo-debt. Over 200,000 people have received letters demanding debt repayments under the farcical automated process.

In Melbourne the Australian Unemployed Workers Union organised a march to Liberal Party headquarters where dummy debt notices were defiantly torn up. The CPSU’s Rupert Evans addressed the rally, and a small number of members attended.

Around 5000 jobs were cut from Centrelink recently, undermining the ability of staff to provide adequate services. The union has a long-standing campaign to restore staffing levels as well as a three-year campaign for a new enterprise agreement.

In response, the department covering Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency, DHS, have challenged the unions’ industrial action in court, saying its focus was the robo-debt scandal rather than enterprise bargaining. This was withdrawn when the union lifted action in return for further bargaining talks.

Centrelink job cuts should be immediately reversed and long-serving casual staff given permanent positions, as demanded by CPSU. The Centrelink debt debacle has been a huge scandal. The government is vulnerable to a public campaign. This should be linked to the CPSU bargaining campaign.

CPSU delegates meetings in other agencies, ATO, Meteorology, ABS and Immigration, have passed motions of solidarity for Centrelink workers. As one Centrelink delegate said: “DHS’ s actions have shown that industrial action works. We appreciated the solidarity from our comrades in other agencies. And we continue our fight.”

By CPSU Delegates, Melbourne

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