ACT News


CPSU thwarts stopwatch bid

The public service's main union says it has thwarted a plan by the federal bureaucracy's biggest employer to arm managers with stopwatches and make them stand behind call centre staff. 

The Community and Public Sector Union said it stepped in after learning of the plan by the Department of Human Services to use stopwatches to time calls to clients.

DHS was not contacted for comment late Wednesday but a spokeswoman on Thursday morning confirmed it was proposed at a centre in West Australia but was not intended to intimidate staff. 

"The proposal was set aside following feedback from a small number of staff and the use of stopwatches never actually commenced in the Bunbury Smart Centre," the spokeswoman said. 

"The department is committed to providing a supportive workplace and the feedback to and from staff plays an important role in this.


"Our current practice involves checking call times by referring to the start and finish time on the staff member’s computer screen."

The spokeswoman said "quality listening and coaching" with staff had been in place across the department for some time, and was an approach applied in other smart centres in other states as well as being standard industry practice.

A statement from the union said DHS had told workers that managers ''would stand over them with stopwatches to time their calls – all in the name of improving efficiency''. This was to have been introduced last week. 

Union deputy president Lisa Newman said it was was an insult to staff already under increasing pressure from heavy workloads.

''They are under constant pressure to cut the times and number of calls they take,'' she said. 

''The last thing they need is the added pressure of a supervisor clicking a stopwatch and taking notes. This takes micromanagement to a new level.''

Do you know more? Send your confidential tips to

Many of the staff at DHS worked for Centrelink and Medicare. The stopwatch claims come at a sensitive time between management and their workers, who are attempting to strike a three-year deal over pay and conditions. 

The federal government’s biggest department was being accused by the union of trying to squeeze an extra $100 million of work each year from its public servants for free by making its 35,000 civil servants sit at their desks another six minutes a day.

But the Department of Human Services has returned the union’s fire. It accuses the Community and Public Sector Union of making $1 billion worth of demands from its new enterprise agreement.

DHS’s plan to keep its 35,000 public servants at their desks for an extra six minutes each day will net the government $104 million of work each year, but without a pay rise on the table.

Ms Newman said DHS management had not consulted with staff about its intention to use stopwatches, ''just an email announcing the program would begin''.

She said the proposal was about to be rolled out to 200 staff at the DHS call centre in Bunbury, Western Australia.


Comment are now closed