Almost one in 10 staff from families, housing department to be sacked

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Up to 400 public servant and executive roles in the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing will be made redundant, with their union warning child protection workers could be left scrambling to do their jobs if administration and other “back of house” staff are cut.

Department secretary Peta McCammon wrote to about 5000 permanent and contractual staff this week, warning that almost 10 per cent of roles across the wide-ranging department would be cut.

Child protection workers will be off-limits in the looming job cuts.Credit: istock

“While there are a number of ways we can reduce spending, many of which we are already undertaking, we will need to reduce the number of roles in our department to achieve the savings required of us,” she wrote.

McCammon stressed there would be no reductions to so-called “frontline” workers – with roles including child protection practitioners, youth and families workers, housing services officers and disability support officers quarantined from job cuts.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says the mood within the broader department is “harrowing” due to ongoing uncertainty about which positions or programs could be cut.

McCammon will address staff on Tuesday to outline the “high-level changes” and how the cuts will be spread between public servants and executives.

Community and Public Sector Union Victorian secretary Karen Batt.Credit: Eddie Jim

CPSU organiser Magda Akkerman welcomed the department’s commitment to keeping child protection and other frontline workers quarantined from job losses, but questioned how they could do their jobs effectively without support from their colleagues.

“It’s good to say there’s no frontline staff being touched, but if they can’t get their job done because the admin burden is so extraordinarily crushing, how can they do anything?” she said.

“My concern is that the public service we have today will not be the same public service we have in six months if this goes through and these roles are gone, because the department just will no longer be able to offer particular services and then one will. NGOs can’t necessarily pick up these responsibilities.”

McCammon’s announcement follows news of mass layoffs at the Department of Justice and Community Safety, Department of Health, Education Department, among others.

Premier Daniel Andrews first flagged wide-scale cuts to the Victorian Public Service in March, warning Victorians to prepare for “tough decisions” in the May budget to reduce ballooning net debt linked to interest rates and COVID-19 spending.

In May, Treasurer Tim Pallas confirmed up to 4000 public sector jobs would go, outlining a $31.5 billion COVID debt repayment plan and vowing to bring public service employment levels back to pre-pandemic levels.

After months of negotiations with the CPSU, the Andrews government in July agreed to accept the internal redeployment of public service employees in the first instance; agreeing that redundancies should “only be used as an option of last resort”.

The government has also agreed not to use consultants, contractors and labour-hire employees to replace positions made redundant under the cost-cutting measures until June 30 next year.

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