Australian Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has announced that Serco Citizen Services, a subsidiary of Serco, would be contracted to help operate Centrelink’s call centre. But the public sector union has condemned the move to privatise the call centre as it would give Serco access to vast amounts of personal information.
In a bid to address ongoing delays with the call centre, Tudge said the move would create an extra 250 jobs, with all Serco workers complying with Commonwealth privacy and security requirements.
“This partnership will assist Australians who are accessing Centrelink services, and help reduce call wait times,” said Tudge.
Between July 2016 and June 2017 the Department of Human Services recorded 42 million busy singles, with wait times averaging 30 minutes for employment services, 28 minutes for disability and sickness and 16 minutes for families and parenting.
The Community and Public Sector Union quickly criticised the Serco decision as an “absolute disaster,” with the union’s national secretary, Nadine Flood, calling it “an attack on public servants” and a “threat to the integrity of private information.”
“We are seeking an urgent meeting with the department seeking more information on this dubious arrangement,” commented Flood.
“Clearly this deal has been kept secret for some time if Serco is planning to be hooked into Centrelink’s systems in just a few weeks. Providing Serco with even the most basic access to client records would be giving the company a frightening amount of personal information.”