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Issue #1847      November 7, 2018

Labour hire arrives at Medicare

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says privately employed labour hire workers are to be used in Medicare for the first time, setting a dangerous precedent for critical services and putting quality, permanent jobs in the agency at risk.

The union has become aware that the Department of Human Services has engaged a private company to provide at least 12 labour hire workers from this week in Hobart, and is urgently seeking details of what Medicare work they will be doing.

DHS has been ramping up its use of labour hire in Centrelink but until now has avoided using such arrangements in Medicare or Child Support.

CPSU deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said: “It may only be a handful of labour hire workers in Hobart right now, but this decision is setting a very dangerous precedent and taking Medicare down the same path the department has already taken with Centrelink. Corporations should have no place in handling our sensitive Medicare records.

“This continues the Coalition government’s long record of selling out on essential public services, putting corporate profits before ordinary Australians who rely on Medicare to support their health and wellbeing. The Liberal Party has insisted it will never sell off Medicare, but is more than happy to farm out the agency’s work to the private sector.”

Labour hire causes serious problems for the quality and reliability of service delivery, including putting sensitive medical information at risk. It also means the workers involved are paid less, receive significantly less training and support and work under inferior conditions with little or no job security.

The labour hire workers in Hobart won’t just be being paid significantly less than permanent staff on modest wages doing the same work, but they’re even being kept separate from the rest of the Medicare team in Hobart at a completely separate work site. That makes it even less likely that they’ll be able to pick up the kind of skills and experience needed to do their jobs properly.

“This government has slashed thousands of permanent jobs from DHS and has since used the damage that’s caused to service standards as an excuse to put more and more of the department’s critical work in the hands of profit-hungry corporations,” warned Donnelly.

“These labour hire workers in Hobart should be given permanent jobs directly with the department, and the decent training, pay and conditions that goes with that.”

Next article – Airservices Australia staff strike

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