Union: Regional Centrelink and Medicare employees face cuts

PUBLIC servants working for the Federal Government in regional Centrelink and Medicare offices could face staff cuts and potential backlogs in their work, the public sector union has warned.

The warning from Community and Public Sector Union national secretary Nadine Flood came as the 29,000 regional public servants faced a staffing freeze from Canberra.

A freeze on hiring new staff and extending short term contracts has already begun, but the Abbot Government's planned 12,000 staff cuts is yet to fully hit home.

It is understood more than 250 staff have taken redundancy packages, as the government looks to cut more staff without extensive further pay-outs.

Ms Flood said the freeze follows new rules in force that government agencies can only move existing staff into vacancies, rather than filling roles from outside government.

She said the freeze was "simply a massive staff cut" that would hit regional communities the hardest, where Commonwealth offices were few and far between.

"We call on the Government to change this new policy to allow agencies to fill vacant positions locally and guarantee regional jobs are not lost," she said.

"From today agencies will be forced to cope with dwindling staff numbers rather than providing vital services to the public and quality advice to the government."

The main federal agencies that have significant staff outside the capital cities include Centrelink, Medicare, Australia Post and the Defence Force.

New plans already under consideration include combining Centrelink and Australia Post officers in the same buildings in regional areas, but the government has stressed that no decision has been made yet.

Of the total 165,000 Commonwealth public servants, about 17.5% work outside the major cities, and if the 12,000 cuts were distributed evenly across the country, more than 3000 regional jobs could be at risk.

All new public service appointments now need the public service commission's approval, with all departments advised "recruitment activity underway is to cease, unless an offer has already been made to a suitable candidate".

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