Social workers rally over job cut fears

Geraldine Hayden addresses the Communities workers.

AROUND 100 workers from the Department of Communities rallied in Fremantle’s Pioneer Park on Tuesday over fears they are facing mass job cuts.

The rally was organised by the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association which fears job cuts are being ushered in under the guise of a “functional review”.

CPSU/CSA community campaign organiser Andrei Buters told the Herald the department was refusing to let them see a copy of the review, raising their suspicions.

The union says high workloads are already putting staff under pressure, with 943 child protection cases languishing without a caseworker.

Adding to this the department was in turmoil, with the CPSU/CSA receiving 70 formal notices of change since 2020.

Staff chanted “hey hey, ho ho, secrecy has got to go” and “one child, one case, children need a safer space” across the road from minister Simone McGurk’s office while a petition was put together asking parliament’s legislative council to commit to no forced redundancies.

Union branch secretary Rikki Hendon said the staff played a vital role in protecting at-risk children and families.

“The capacity of the Department of Communities to ensure vulnerable people receive the services and support they need to thrive will be seriously undermined if the government proceeds with mass job cuts through this functional review,” Ms Hendon said.

“Right now, unallocated child protection cases are dangerously high and Western Australians need support to recover from the social impacts of Covid-19. This is the time it would make sense to invest in more people to deliver services at the Department of Communities, not less.

“A lack of consultation, communication and transparency around the functional review and other change is eroding staff morale and trust in the department.”

Ms McGurk didn’t attend the rally, but in a statement read out to the protestors, she didn’t address the issue of job cuts.

While thanking the staff for their work, Ms McGurk said the government was committed to improving outcomes for vulnerable families.

“I want to reaffirm my commitment to working with you and the union to address key issues wherever possible,” she said.

“Change is never easy, and I know that the department has had more than its fair share of change in recent years. But we know that we are on the right track, and must stay the course to build on the good work being delivered by all of you.”

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