"If you stand up and stand together, you can ensure management follow the rules and listen to your concerns."
Our members in the Personalised Services section of Centrelink recently had a significant win enforcing their consultation and health and safety rights to ensure a planned change to phone queues is safe for staff and customers.
The team enlisted the help of their CPSU delegate, organiser and Health and Safety Representative to make sure staff had real input into an important change.
CPSU delegate, David Gosling, explains what happened:
"Personalised Services (PS) is a small team in DHS who case manage Centrelink recipients with complex issues, unreasonable and/or aggressive behaviour. Most of the people we work with are on Servicing Restrictions due to aggression.
PS staff experience high levels of verbal abuse and frequent threats which need to be escalated and addressed.
Management decided to move from a voicemail service to a live queue, and to change the closing time from 4.30 to 4.45 each day.
Members in our team saw some positives in having a live queue, but we also had concerns about the impact on staff health and safety and ideas about how to manage those risks.
We were worried what some of these high risk customers would do if they had a direct line to staff who they had previously threatened and abused. We also worried that the transition might trigger more aggression against face-to-face staff unless it was managed well.
Members in the team discussed among themselves what the issues were, and raised their concerns in meetings, and then in a group email to management.
We asked management if a WHS Risk Assessment had been done on the change. We spoke to an organiser who supported us to involve a local Health and Safety Representative who was also a CPSU member.
We sent two more emails and members spoke out in team meetings and other forums about their concerns. Finally, management agreed to meet with a CPSU delegate, organiser and Health and Safety Representative.
In that meeting, management acknowledged that no WHS Risk Assessment had been completed, and later that day they sent an email saying they would delay the rollout of the live queue longer, so that a risk management plan would be put in place.
They also confirmed there would be more opportunities for staff to have their say in that process.
We haven’t won everything we asked for (not yet anyway), but members have shown that if you stand up and stand together, you can ensure management follow the rules and listen to your concerns.
And it’s a good reminder to all of us what the consultation rules in the agreement are for – and why it’s so important we keep them in the new agreement!"