03/04/2009 - 13:53

Employment providers join dole queue

03/04/2009 - 13:53

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Hundreds of employment service providers across Australia have lost their government contracts, forcing thousands of staff to join dole queues with their clients.

Employment providers join dole queue

Hundreds of employment service providers across Australia have lost their government contracts, forcing thousands of staff to join dole queues with their clients.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced 141 providers and 48 sub-contractors had been chosen to run the new Job Services Australia (JSA) scheme, which replaces the Howard government's Job Network.

A government spokesperson told WA Business News that under the current Job Network, there were around 240 providers.

Employment Participation Minister Brendan O'Connor said about 70 per cent of winning contractors were existing job service providers, leaving about 60 organisations on the outer.

Following the release of successful tenderers' names over five hours late on Thursday, providers say that the number of organisations missing out will total well into the hundreds.

In WA, Mission Australia said it had lost its major contracts in Mandurah, Pinjarra, Maddington and Kalgoorlie, but had won new contracts in Meekatharra and Geraldton.

Another Perth-based organisation Communicare said it was also successful in winning its contracts under Job Services Australia, which will start on July 1.

General manager Wayne Stevenson said although the organisation had been sucessful, there may be a reduction in employee numbers as the business undergoes a restructure to better service the new contracts.

He added that while some employees may be let go, they could be picked up elsewhere in the organisation or with other job services providers which may need to restructure their business.

The sentiment was echoed by Mission Australia spokesperson Paul Andrews who said that while 458 positions would be made redundant Australia-wide, the organisation was positive it could redeploy employees elsewhere.

Meantime, Wesley Mission chief executive Reverend Keith Garner said only seven of Wesley's 67 Uniting Employment sites around NSW would be maintained under the new scheme, while the rest would be progressively wound down ahead of the JSA's July 1 start date.

Rev Garner said about 380 of his employees would have to be made redundant as a result of Labor's $4 billion overhaul of employment services.

"The great disappointment for us is the huge impact that this is going to have upon our staff and upon some of the people who are the most marginalised in Australia," he said.

Rev Garner said there hadn't been enough recognition of the added value not-for-profit organisations brought to the whole arena of job employment programs.

Jobs Australia chief executive David Thompson said about 200 of his job provider members wouldn't have a contract under the new scheme.

"The concern I have now is for those high-performers who, as a consequence of quirks of the tender process, don't have business and have a useful and important role to play in dealing with the consequences of the imminent recession," he said.

The implementation of JSA, which folds seven separate employment services programs into one, would leave about 2,000 Jobs Australia staff unemployed, Mr Thompson said.

"Some of the people in those jobs will be picked up in new jobs created by organisations that are growing," he said.

"But some of them, for example those working in not-for-profit organisations, may choose not to work in for-profit organisations and will be in the queues in their own offices."

Earlier on Thursday, Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard defended the overhaul, saying the government had no option but to conduct the tender round because it had inherited problems from a "lazy and neglectful" Howard government.

However, opposition employment participation spokesman Andrew Southcott said the changes couldn't have come at a worse time for job seekers already struggling with the effects of the global financial crisis.

Many providers passed over for contracts were also offering additional services beyond employment, including support programs for the homeless, financial counselling and health services, a spokeswoman for Mr Southcott said.

"It just defies belief that they've chosen to do this at a time when there's a lot of uncertainty out there anyway," the spokeswoman said.

Mr Southcott's office had already heard from three providers who estimated about 1,000 of their staff would have to be laid off in the coming months.

"Chances are if you look at the top three job losses in Australia over the last 12 months, you'll have BHP number one, you'll have this as number two, ahead of Pacific Brands," the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Services Union said it was launching a website - saveourjobs.com.au - to help displaced employment services workers find a potential new job.

The site lists Mission Australia as anticipating 485 job losses, 200 unemployed at Salvation Army Employment Plus and 250 redundancies at the Sarina Russo Group.

 

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