Millions of Australians have been told to avoid Centrelink after staff walked off their jobs over a breakdown in pay negotiations.
Staff from Australia’s largest government agency staged a mass strike after rejecting a proposed 11.2 per cent wage increase from the government.
Centrelink recipients have been told there will be no impact on their payments, however, it is unclear how the major strike action will affect the 9.4 million people currently on income support nationwide.
“We will have less staff and if you can delay visiting or calling us until Tuesday or later in the week, please do,” Services Australia manager Hank Jurgen said.
More than 10,000 Centrelink staff are part of the peak public sector union, with more than a third of the Services Australia workforce expected to be involved in today’s strike.
A CPSU spokesperson said the “ball was now in the government’s court” and flagged an increase in future industrial action.
Staff from the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, and the Department of Agriculture, will vote to strike soon after a series of protected work action ballots were approved last week.
Shadow Minister for Government Services Paul Fletcher claimed the agency [Services Australia] was a “basket case” and said Monday’s work stoppages would cause “chaos.”
Greens spokesperson for social services Senator Janet Rice said people on Centrelink were struggling more than ever.
“Those on income support are in need of urgent help. In just the last week, I’ve seen a woman in huge financial stress try to fix a Jobseeker payment issue, only to call over 100 times and not get through,” Senator Rice said.
“Workers are tired of being overworked and unpaid, and people on Centrelink are tired of the system completely failing them.”
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten’s office has been contacted for comment.