Public sector panic prompts security call
Public servants at Centrelink say they go to work every day in fear of violence, and are urging their bosses to boost security at the agency’s shopfronts.
Stats show there have been nearly 10,000 acts of aggression against front-line Centrelink workers in the 12 months to October 2014.
The issue was thrown into sharper focus this week, when thousands of DHS and Social Services staff in Canberra were locked inside their buildings after a weapons scare.
It revived fears planted in 2013, when a nearby DHS building nearby was attacked by a disgruntled former employee wielding a chainsaw.
The Community and Public Sector Union says most DHS staff believe their workplaces are becoming more dangerous, especially the Centrelink and Medicare shopfronts that are open to the public.
“The health and safety of our staff and customers is of paramount importance to the Department of Human Services,” a DHS spokesperson said.
But this did not wash with the CPSU, which accused DHS management of not taking the rising tide of aggression seriously.
“Because DHS has failed to take this issue seriously, aggression towards staff risks becoming normalised in many workplaces,” the union's deputy secretary, Lisa Newman, told Fairfax Media.
“Human Services staff have a right to come to work in the expectation that they will not be subject to the threat of physical violence.
“DHS needs to step up and practice what it preaches at a national level and listen to the staff who are on the front line and act on their concerns.”
DHS says it has sent a senior executive to New Zealand to join an advisory board set up in the wake of the killing of four New Zealand bureaucrats, which is the subject of an ongoing trial.