The Guardian • Issue #2053

Outsourcing’s shadow workforce

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2053

Photo: Garvid – Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says it is pleased to see that the Albanese Labor government has uncovered the scale of outsourcing within the Australian Public Service (APS) that exploded under the former Liberal government. The union calls on the government to urgently take steps to address the grossly entrenched overreliance.

The former government imposed arbitrary staff caps across the APS which quickly reduced the number of APS employees and progressively created a shadow workforce that was doing the work of APS employees without the transparency, accountability, or security that comes with APS employment.

The CPSU has been a long-term critic of the use of arbitrary staffing caps and the outsourcing of public sector work, including in recent days, given the adverse impacts it has on employees, workplaces, public service delivery, and public confidence in government.

Melissa Donnelly, CPSU National Secretary, said the APS Audit of Employment has revealed the level of the former Coalition government’s outsourcing addiction and the true cost of that and the findings shine a light on the issue the CPSU has been raising for years.

“This shadow workforce emerged under the former Liberal government because the work that keeps our country running has to be done despite the Liberal National party’s ideological and arbitrary staffing caps. Instead of engaging APS employees, the previous government set up the shadow workforce where the only winners were labour hire companies and consulting firms.

“The financial cost of this rampant outsourcing might be $21 billion, but the true cost is seen when you look at the adverse impacts this has had and is having on workplaces and public service delivery every single day.

“It is increasingly difficult to understand what the argument is for maintaining this reliance on an insecure and external workforce in the APS. Their engagement in public sector work is bad for the budget, bad for workplaces and bad for public service delivery.

“The work of our public service is incredibly important, with many of our members bringing years of experience and expertise to their roles. The idea that they could be replaced by someone with little to no training, receiving often poor remuneration, and on an insecure agreement is laughable. But the consequences aren’t funny.”

The ongoing engagement of external providers in the public service continues to have adverse impacts on workplaces and public service delivery every single day, undermining APS capacity and capability.

“Change is desperately needed, and while there have been some positive changes, there is still a mountain of work to do to rebuild the APS.

“There must be further action to decrease the use of labour hire employees, contractors or consultants within the APS matched by increases in public sector jobs.

“It is good to see in black and white the true extent of the outsourcing crisis, now it is time to tackle this problem head-on.”

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