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Sacked public servants 'parked' in new division and paid to show up

As the public service in Canberra plans mass redundancies, one government department is preparing to pay hundreds of bureaucrats up to $130,000 a year “just for showing up’’.

Health Department insiders warn that its new “Business Services Centre” will be a place to park up to 200 officials who have lost their jobs.

They have been told their jobs are “unfunded,” instructed not to use the word “excess” and that they will move to the new Business Services Centre from December 1 with no idea what their duties will be or even if there is work for them to do.

In internal documents, obtained by Fairfax, the departmental hierarchy says the BSC is meant undertake tasks in the future for other divisions of the cash-strapped department but could not point to one project assigned to the unit.

Many of the public servants, who find themselves still employed by the government but with no jobs to do, are executives earning up to $130,000 a year.

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One departmental insider said the workers and managers would be parked in the new division applying for jobs in the Health Department and the broader public service while waiting for a project to work on.

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Health refused to answer questions about the new unit and departmental chief Jane Halton has declined to be interviewed on the job losses gutting her department.

In response to a series of detailed questions, a departmental spokeswoman merely continued to deny there was a “spill and fill” process underway at Health.

Several DoH workers have described the process where some of the department’s divisions forced staff on the pay scales between Australian Public Service 5 and Executive Level 2 to submit “expressions of interests” in keeping their jobs.

“If they are not successful, then they will be placed in a Business Services Centre,” one public servant said.

“Basically, it’s a place for people to be sent, while waiting to be picked up for any vacancies within DoH or other APS Agencies.

“While they are waiting here, whether they are assigned to a project or not, they continue to get paid their usual salary, just for showing up to work.”

According to internal Health documents, the BSC might be called on to undertake jobs for other divisions that that were “unfunded”.

“Staff in the BSC will undertake unfunded priority work identified by divisions,” the internal memo states.

“Surge work may also be undertaken by staff assigned to the BSC.

“This could include evaluation work following a finalisation of a project or activation of the National Incident Room, for example.”

Fairfax revealed last week that 350 jobs were to be axed in the department with its Population Health Division under the gun and understood to be targeted for a staffing cut of more than 30 per cent.

The Primary and Ambulatory Care Division will have its ranks reduced by 25 per cent while some other divisions are expected to escape unscathed.

The Health workers will join the growing ranks of the public service “displaced person,” workers whose jobs have been cut but who cannot be sacked because of a government ban on forced redundancies, part of its policy of axing 12000 government jobs by natural attrition.

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