Thousands of public servants have made an urgent plea to be vaccinated and given more resources for their work delivering welfare payments to people struggling under lockdowns.
The main public sector union on Thursday said more than 2000 Services Australia staff had appealed directly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds for more help as they respond to surging demand.
It coincides with reports to a local MP from public servants seconded to the agency raising concerns about a lack of Covid safety for staff delivering welfare payments from office buildings.
A wave of claims for financial support has hit Services Australia as the nation's major cities remain in lockdown, forcing the agency to mobilise thousands of staff in response.
The Community and Public Sector Union said thousands of Services Australia staff were still working from office buildings in Covid hotspots because there was not enough equipment to let them work from home.
Services Australia staff have asked the government for 10,000 mobile phones and fast-tracked technical upgrades to let more employees work from home during lockdowns and reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
In a letter to Mr Morrison and Senator Reynolds, the public servants also asked for priority access to age-appropriate vaccines for staff working directly with customers in Service Centres, especially in Covid hotspots.
The CPSU said the staff understood their roles were critical, and that they were fiercely committed to helping communities and keeping services accessible.
However despite being 20 months into the pandemic, Services Australia only had 13,000 mobile phones available for its 34,000-strong directly employed workforce to work from home, the union said.
CPSU national president Alistair Waters said its members at Services Australia were working enormous hours to help the community, but needed the government to invest in infrastructure to help them do it safely.
"Twenty months into this pandemic and the government has not invested in enough equipment or resources to ensure one of its most critical workforces can assist the community from home," he said.
"Due to a lack of equipment the agency is bringing thousands of workers in locked down areas into offices for work that can be done at home. This is just not good enough; it puts workers and their families at risk."
Mr Waters said it was staggering that workers in Centrelink's service centres did not have priority access to age-appropriate vaccines.
"The most vulnerable in our community rely on workers in Centrelink Service Centres. These workers are absolutely essential."
Staff also called for an increase in permanent staff numbers, and an end to the government's restrictive public service wages policy.
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Services Australia spokesman Hank Jongen said the agency prioritised the wellbeing of staff and customers, and was adhering to state and territory health orders.
"We've delivered millions of payments to the community while keeping our staff safe over the course of rolling lockdowns across the nation since the first restrictions almost 18 months ago," he said.
"This requires striking a balance between having staff at work to maintain our national network, such as our service centres, while facilitating work from home where practical."
Mr Jongen said Services Australia staff had the appropriate tools required for their work, and that the agency had Covid safety measures including physical distancing, mask wearing, hand sanitiser, screens and limits on numbers of people in service centres.
Federal Labor MP for the ACT seat of Bean, David Smith, said he had received reports from public servants seconded to help Services Australia that the agency had too many people in the same workplace.
"They want to do the work, it's an important mission. But they are concerned about the conditions in which they are working," he said.
"There's obviously enormous pressure in terms of processing payments and that's going to increase over the weeks to come, but we can't afford our key processing centres to become exposure sites.
"That work has to be done in a safe and sensible manner, and to do that you have to ensure that you've got sufficient staff who can do that remotely from home as well."
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