The Community and Public Sector Union, according to Government News, has extracted a commitment from the Department of Human Services for a four week halt to what the union claims is a push to outsource government call centre work to Telstra.
In a bulletin to members, the CPSU said it had secured an agreement from DHS that the giant department will take “no further steps to outsource services or work to third party providers” for the next four weeks following a second round of talks over the dispute at the Fair Work Commission.
The union has been ardently opposing any co-location of Telstra staff within DHS call centres, fearing it is the start of an attempt to send government jobs across the private sector.
However telecommunications industry sources have indicated that Telstra’s work at DHS is more likely to be about coaching staff how to steer Centrelink and Medicare’s phone customers to much cheaper online or automated channels that avoid the use of human agents in call centres.
Should that be the case, it’s probable a shrinking inbound workload would ultimately require fewer DHS call centre positions for inbound work, thus allowing the department to either redeploy staff to other areas or potentially up the rotation of ‘customer facing’ staff across areas.
Telstra has already aggressively pursued the widespread automation of its own customer service front ends, including the use of natural speech recognition, to cut costs and speed up workflow and Chief Executive David Thodey this year predicted the carrier might not have any call (human staffed) centres in just five years.
However the CPSU is not relenting in its campaign to maintain grass roots community and workplace pressure to stop outsourcing, telling its members it had secured an agreement for DHS to “provide all relevant documentation and information on what the department’s needs are behind the proposal to contract services out to private companies.”
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