Further cuts to jobs at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) could imperil Australia’s border security and slow visa processing, as more than 300 jobs vanish.
The government confirmed earlier this week that it would reduce its staffing cap by 305, down from 13,750 public servants, partly by targeting middle managers with voluntary redundancies. The remainder of cuts will be found through a hiring freeze as staff who leave are not replaced.
The move comes as the DIBP attempts to plug the gap left by a $116 million cut to its budget in this financial year alone.
But the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said the department could cull as many as 800 jobs, which it said made a mockery of the government’s continued reiteration of the importance of border security.
CPSU Deputy National President Rupert Evans said the staffing cuts were “short-sighted” and would undermine the DIBP.
“It would be bad enough if the department was having to do the same work with fewer staff, but the situation is far worse,” Evans said. “The Government’s budget cuts are forcing DIBP to sack workers as the workload continues to grow rapidly.”
He said there were already ‘well over’ 1,000 fewer staff in the DIBP than there were four years ago.
“In the same period the number of international passengers has grown by 3.6 million, there’s an extra 2.8 million visas being processed, half a million more pieces of cargo to be inspected and more than nine million more pieces of international mail and parcels to be checked and terrorism risks have risen.”
Evans said the cuts would “further undermine staff morale”, particularly because they came during the bitter and protracted dispute over working rights, conditions and pay which has left around 75 per cent of Commonwealth public sector workers without a new enterprise bargaining agreement, some of them for three years.
Union members from the DIBP held a 24-hour strike last Friday at international airports, ports and offices to protest at the lack of progress in negotiations and the announcement of staff cuts is only likely to deepen the distrust between workers and government.
Meanwhile, the CPSU is hauling federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash in front of the Fair Work Commission, accusing her of not bargaining in good faith during the dispute.
CPSU National President Alistair Waters said Cash was the mouthpiece for the Turnbull Government’s “harsh and unworkable” stance during public sector bargaining.
“Minister Cash hasn’t just refused to meet with the CPSU, she has also publicly misrepresented our position on numerous occasions and otherwise tried to undermine our attempts to help her fix the Turnbull Government’s bargaining mess,” Waters said. “Our members have shown a willingness to compromise but Minister Cash’s responses have been consistently toxic and unfair.”
More to follow.
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