National

Public service casuals longing for permanent relationship; looking for answers

High-performing casual workers at the giant Department of Human Services are being denied full time public service jobs, according to the federal opposition, as DHS undertakes one of its mass hiring rounds.

Labor's Human Services spokesman Doug Cameron wants to know why the road to full-time and permanent jobs for casuals is being blocked, even for workers who are highly rated by the department.

DHS will not answer questions about the recruitment round or how many of its casuals made it into the ranks of the permanent public service but a spokesman for Minister for Human Services Stuart Robert said he would respond to Senator Cameron's concerns in "due course". 

The massive department employs nearly 35,000 people, more than a fifth of all Commonwealth public servants, and relies on nearly 3800 "non-ongoing workers", including "Intermittent Irregular employees to keep its network of Centrelink and Medicare call centres running.

But permanent jobs are in demand with 41,000 applicants coming forward for only 1250 jobs at Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency when the department last embarked on a large recruitment drive in late 2014.

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Figures for the hiring drive undertaken in late 2015 are not available but Senator Cameron says that many DHS casuals have come to him complaining that they are being unfairly blocked from full-time work.

"Some of these employees have been engaged in the department for an extended period and have not been advised of any problems with their work ethic, capacity of performance," Senator Cameron wrote to the minister.

"In fact a couple of my constituents have indicated they have been top performers in assessments and key performance indicators."

DHS did not answer question on its recruitment drive and referred inquiries to the minster's office.

"The Minister for Human Services, Stuart Robert, has received a letter from Senator Cameron regarding this matter and will respond in due course," a spokesman told Fairfax.

The Labor frontbencher said casuals were left bewildered after being knocked back from permanent jobs. 

Some are extremely competent, they've been told they've been doing a good job, they've had commendations, permanent jobs have come up and they've been overlooked for a permanent jobs," Senator Cameron said.

He said the latest issue was linked to the dispute over pay and conditions in the department which has been going on since 2014.

"There is an ideological approach; these workers are being told they have to pay for not accepting a wage cut,"

"They (the department) just want to gain more and more control over their employees by bringing in inexperienced people in."

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