21 July 2021
Privatisation of job services was based on the concept that competition improves performances; hey we all run faster in a race than on a jog.
It takes the simple model and assumes that public servants do not work as hard as the lean, mean private sector workers.
I have worked in the public service here and the UK for some years. I defy anyone to say that salaried doctors do not work hard. How does a basic 60 hours a week, with a few hours of unpaid overtime a day and on call one night in two for ICU or ED sound?
I was at Sydney Water for 13 years. The clerical staff worked their 35 hours, but the professional staff were mainly there until 6pm, despite only being paid to 3.30pm. The clerks knew their jobs and did their jobs. They thought about their work, prioritised the important things and did them. Their jobs were safe, they were honest, and criticism of them was frankly misplaced. So was the idea that a ‘blow-in’ manager could do their jobs better than they could.
The assumption of privatisation of job seeking is that contractors would do better than the CES. The Key Performance Indicators were set up so that they go paid less for people who were easier to place and more for those who were hard to place. So it was presumably staffed as cheaply as possible, and the business model concentrated effort where the most money could be had for the least work. People who would have got a job without the providers help at all were money for jam. People who were very difficult to place were not worth spending time on. So instead of an ongoing effort to help people in whatever way possible there were distorting priorities- what do you expect? In this case you get what you pay for.
There was a similar nonsense when there was a privatised effort to lower unemployment, which was in the mid-1990s. This drive did not come with any more jobs, so the best hope was reclassification of people who were not working. Many people were sent to me as a doctor to fill in their Disability Pension forms, as the private sector were given bonuses to get people off the dole and putting them disability pension qualified as this. And they think that the public service does paper shuffling- they are amateurs!
After they had expanded the Disability Pension numbers a few years went by and Morrison decided that there were too may people on this, so he would make it tougher to get. He boasted that only a third as many people were put on the disability pension in one year than had been the case the year before. I knew some of the people who could not get the disability pension. There were not enough jobs for healthy people, let alone unhealthy ones. They were demeaned and humiliated, with supposed ‘mutual obligations’. They had to waste their time writing job applications for jobs that they had no chance of getting, and presumably the bosses wasted time either reading them, or just binning then without bothering.
When NSW passed legislation that Workers Compensation would only be for 5 years and then they would have to apply for a disability pension the object was to transfer the costs of injured workers from the State insurers’ premiums to the federal taxpayer. Centrelink was having none of that. Of the people kicked off Workers Comp, only about a third managed to get a disability pension; the rest were on ‘Newstart’ applying for jobs that they had no chance of getting and on far less money than before. Patients came to me asking for ever more elaborate reports to try to get disability pensions when they needed them.
One man, a 61 year old Middle Eastern man who had been on compo for 13 years and was carer for his disabled wife could not get a disability pension. He had chronic back pain and a limp. His English was poor, he was illiterate in English (and possibly Arabic) with a file two inches thick. I spent a lot of time writing a report for him. Centrelink thanked me but said they could only pay a small amount for such reports. So I will not do such reports again, and presumably neither will any of the other doctors- we cannot afford to work for free to fight a system with a different agenda.
Meanwhile the private providers are cream-skimming, adding another layer of costs. Because a market system transfers money upwards to those with more economic power who can control their pieces and costs, a government and a welfare system needs to transfer wealth both to everyone in society equally by building facilities everyone can use or by direct payments to those who are unable to get jobs or who are otherwise disadvantaged.
The problem is that jobs are being offshored to low wage countries or replaced by technology. This is national problem for high income countries. It is a problem for the whole country, but it affects some people directly. We are all lucky that our dollar is high and our goods cheaper because low wage countries make things cheaper. So we all should contribute to make our own country more equal.
Until we demand a fair system we will not get one. Stopping rip offs, and paying CES people a fair wage to do a fair job is a start.