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Issue #1551      13 June 2012

Union slams customs job cuts in regional Australia

The union representing Customs Officers has slammed a decision to cut 37 out of 153 positions from Customs District Offices including Port Hedland, Cairns, Broome and Dampier. According to a briefing paper sent to Customs staff, the job losses are a response to cuts imposed in the recent federal budget.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said: “This is a bad decision and we oppose it. It’s a slap in the face for the hard-working men and women in the Customs workforce who have some of the most dangerous and challenging jobs in the public service.”

Ms Flood said that despite management assurances that the cuts will be managed by targeting back office functions and areas with less high risk activity, staff are deeply concerned that operational capacity will be reduced.

“These ports may be low risk but that doesn’t mean they’re no risk.

“The Thursday Island office is losing 6 of its 14 positions and in Dampier the current team of 24 is being reduced to 18. How can that not affect operational capacity? These officers perform crucial work keeping Australia’s ports secure. Their duties include checking cargo on the docks, performing surveillance and searching for illegal items such as guns and drugs.

“The job losses confirm that it’s simply not possible to slash billions of dollars from the public sector without reducing essential services and jobs,” said Ms Flood.

The union also warned public sector budget cuts are hitting regional areas hard, pointing out that two thirds of federal public servants are located outside Canberra.

“In many parts of regional Australia the federal public sector is a crucial employer,” said Ms Flood.

“It is vitally important that every effort is made to maintain public sector employment in regional areas where good jobs are hard to find,” said Ms Flood.

“The public sector is not an inexhaustible source of savings for governments. In many departments there is little or no fat left to cut, all that is left are the staff that run vital programs.”  

Next article – Gillard in damage control

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