NSW Minister Pru Goward condemns strike by welfare caseworkers: ABC
The New South Wales Minister for Family and Community Services says strike action by caseworkers today is “unnecessary”.
Minister Pru Goward says she is disappointed with the action and it is not needed because of an upcoming meeting with the new head of the Department of Family and Community Services (formerly known DOCS).
It is expected the caseworkers will walk off the job for an hour at midday to protest against the number of vacant position and a lack of resources.
A leaked document that emerged last week revealed there were nearly 300 unfilled positions in March.
But the department says 184 staff have been hired since then.
Steve Turner from the state’s public sector union, the Public Service Association, says caseworkers remain unhappy with the Government’s response.
“The vacancies haven’t been seen to be filled,” he said.
“There hasn’t been seen to be the action over the last 18 months as we’ve been calling for to get the assistance to get these vacancies filled permanently and that’s the big concern.”
The union says vulnerable children will not be put at risk by the industrial action, because skeleton crews will remain at work.
“All those offices that are able to stop work will stop work, but there are some offices as we’ve saying that are so understaffed that they wouldn’t be able to stop work and provide an emergency team left behind,” Mr Turner said.
“The important thing about this call is that an emergency team be left behind to look after any crises that arise.”
The Opposition’s Linda Burney says today’s action is further evidence that caseworkers have lost confidence in the minister.
“There have not been 184 caseworkers put on over the last month,” she said.
“There’s been a recruitment drive; a huge flurry when she realised that there was going to be exposure of her deliberate decision to keep vacancies at the level they were.
“The positions are all temporary, bar 30.
“I have a document to demonstrate that.”
But Ms Goward says the union is set to meet the Director-General of the department this week to discuss their concerns.
“(It’s) very disappointing that they should walk out when there are vulnerable children who need to be seen,” she said.
“I directed the Director-General in March to fill all vacancies.
“The department is well on the way to doing that, the union knows it, and it was quite unnecessary as they were about to meet the Director-General.”