Fears Gippsland’s education department will face mass redundancies have been rejected by local members of parliament.
An internal document, “Proposed changes to DEECD functions and regional model”, obtained by The Express, suggests jobs at the Moe-based Department of Education and Early Childhood Development could be at risk if the State Government follows through with its proposals.
The Community and Public Sector Union advised there were currently 180 workers at Gippsland DEECD.
The document recommended the Gippsland region merge with the Southern Metropolitan region, currently based in Dandenong, reducing the number of education regions statewide from nine to four as part of the Sustainable Government Initiative.
Despite the document proposing plans to amalgamate regions, State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood said Moe was not at risk of closing.
“We can’t afford to not have a representation here,” Mr Blackwood said.
The State Government has announced a total of 4200 public sector job cuts since December last year, including 600 in its May budget.
State Member for Eastern Victoria Region Matt Viney was unconvinced Moe would not be impacted by flagged changes and said the document was “code for only one thing: job cuts”.
The proposal states “key office locations would remain”, prompting Mr Viney to question what would be deemed a “key office”.
Regional offices provide support to schools for programs including reading recovery, languages, multicultural education, Early Childhood Intervention Services and the school nursing program.
“There are absolutely no assurances that the hundreds of education professionals in Moe and Warragul will still have their jobs let alone be able to stay where they are,” Mr Viney said.
“This affects real people, with real families, and real mortgages.”
Despite State Government assurances frontline services would not be affected, Mr Viney feared the proposal would be a “huge blow” to students who would see reduced support services.
“If a student in Traralgon or Trafalgar needs a speech pathologist, if they need a disability support officer or a psychologist, it looks like that support will now be in Dandenong,” he said.
State Member for Morwell Russell North refuted those claims and said the Moe office would not close.
“Any suggestions the Moe regional office of DEECD will close are completely false,” he said.
“The advice I have in person from the minister’s office is that the Moe regional office will not be closing.
“At the moment it is a proposal, (the document) has not been accepted or endorsed.”
Despite dubbing the Sustainable Government Initiative a “necessary evil”, Mr Northe said the government had an obligation to “find efficiencies”.
“At the end of the day governments have an obligation to be spending taxpayers money wisely while not compromising frontline services,” he said.
The case is set to go before Fair Work Australia today after the State Government failed to meet the CPSU’s ongoing requests for detailed information about proposed DEECD cuts.
“If they were to close it (the Moe office), I don’t know what you would do with 180 people,” CPSU Victorian branch acting secretary Jim Walton said.
“I think it is a general fear (of job loss) in all regions because they have been so non-specific, other than there is the reduction in staffing going on.
“They originally claimed it was not about jobs, it was about money but it clearly is about jobs and locations.”