In an article featured in Crikey today, the downfalls to the ‘efficiency dividend’ announced in December by Finance Minister Penny Wong are discussed. While the cuts were only from 1.5% to 4%, as the online questionnaire sent to 1000 Community and Public Sector Union delegates shows, a little goes a long way.
An online questionnaire sent to 1000 Community and Public Sector Union delegates describes how “unmanageable workloads, declining work standards, increased delays and dangerous levels of customer frustration” have turned already-stretched bureaucratic rabbit warrens into living hell holes.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents reported increased workloads and targets, nearly 60% increased customer waiting times, and over half reported increases in unplanned leave. Delegates also reported that vacant positions were not being filled and nearly half witnessed staff doing tasks they weren’t trained in.
According to the article, the union believes that the measures will create pressure on frontline service providers like mental health staff and doctors by removing $2.2 billion from the public sector.
Some of the comments received from delegates makes for interesting reading. In one instance, a DHS frontliner reported that a customer was kept waiting for so long on the phone that they had entered a deep sleep. “They were snoring,” the delegate explained. The customer service assistant sought advice from management about what to do in such an instance?—?the response was to terminate the call if the client could not be promptly roused.
“He advised that the call should be terminated after 30 seconds if the customer does not wake. This looks good on the stats because it is a short call, and it appears that we are processing more customers. However it is arguably poor customer service.”
Another DHS worker reported phone threats from irate welfare recipients had exploded in the first few months of the year. “There are often 20 metre queues out the door. Staff are being abused by people all the time because they have to wait too long,” said another.
Queues on the phone had increased from two minutes to 30 minutes, enraging punters who were calling from mobiles charged by the second: “When they finally get through, we aren’t able to help them and we are abused. Staff are being told to get the customers to do more online however this often doesn’t work and then we have those aggravated customers on the line as well.”
Wong apparently recommended cutting expenditure by saying “no” to contractors and curbing expenditure in areas such as training. Hmm, looks like her ‘handy hints’ weren’t so handy after all?