Union protests against Tassie losing 56 IT jobs



news The Community and Public Sector Union has gone on the attack over a proposal to shift the roles of some 56 Tasmanian IT workers employed by the Department of Human Services onto the mainland, presenting Employment Minister and Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz with a 1,000-strong petition against the move.

iTNews, which appears to have first published this story, revealed the plans in early December. It reportedly comes as part of the creation of “sustainable ICT hubs” around Australia for the department, one of the largest employers of IT staff in the Federal Government courtesy of the IT department of its former Centrelink division.

In a statement issued yesterday, the CPSU said that it would today present Minster Abetz with a petition signed by over 1000 Tasmanian Federal public servants urging him to save 56 Human Services Department ICT jobs at risk of being moved to the mainland.

CPSU Regional Secretary Paul Blake said: “We are calling on Mr Abetz to do the right thing for Tasmania and get this proposal scrapped. It is a huge blow for the staff and their families. And it’s also bad for Tasmania in general because moving these highly skilled and valuable jobs to the mainland will take $4.5 million out of the local economy.”

“There has been a huge amount of support for these workers from fellow workers and the community at large. People are really struggling to understand why this ICT work needs to be centralised to the mainland. This sort of ICT work can be done anywhere and the Department have failed to make a business case for moving these jobs to the mainland.”

“Staff want action from Mr Abetz. This decision was made in October 2013 so it is totally unacceptable for Mr Abetz to try and blame the job losses on the previous government. He’s in charge now, he needs to fix it,” said Blake.

“And the bottom line is that we have had it confirmed that there are no savings under this proposal, in fact it looks like costing the taxpayer money to move these jobs out of Tasmania. This is centralisation gone mad,” he said.

I have sympathy for the workers concerned, especially given the poor employment situation for ICT professionals in Tasmania. I hope that they are able to find new roles. If not, I would encourage them to start their own business. I have found that a worthy alternative to employment with a major organisation. And I do support the cause of major Australian organisations keeping jobs in regional locations such as Tasmania, especially as the availability of broadband increases and we can all work remotely.

However, is this “centralisation gone mad”, as the CPSU claimed? No. The department of Human Services, according to its latest annual report, employs almost 36,000 staff. You can bet that there are several thousand staff as part of that number whose roles would touch on IT. Shifting some 56 jobs around the country is a basic and normal practice for any organisation that size and should go almost unremarked. In addition, unions have a poor history within the white collar technology space. One wonders whether the 56 workers who are set to lose their roles are definitely part of the CPSU.

This situation starkly displays the fact that unions will jump up and down over any tiny change major Australian organisations make to their workforce, even if, as is the case here, those changes impact only 0.001 percent of the workforce. The unions need to get some perspective here. At the least DHS is keeping these jobs in Australia. If this was a private sector organisation, there is no doubt that these kinds of roles would have been pushed offshore to India long ago.

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