Morale is taking a beating at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission registry office in Traralgon, where about 30 job losses will be sought in coming months.
A $15.8 million budget cut to ASIC, detailed in the federal budget last fortnight, is forcing the registry arm to downsize for the second year in a row, identifying 11 targeted redundancies and the expiration of up to 25 contracts.
ASIC senior executive leader for registry Rosanne Bell visited the Traralgon office last Monday to inform the 350-strong workforce of the pending job cuts.
The announcement came within a week of employees learning of the Abbott Government’s plans to forge ahead with the registry’s privatisation, through a $12.6 million tender process to probe the market’s appetite for a buyout.
The privatisation tender fuelled an ongoing campaign joined by Latrobe City Council to lobby for the retention of hundreds of registry jobs in the Valley, ahead of a tentative sale date in 2018.
While ASIC’s registry business also has offices in Melbourne and Perth, up to nine of the 11 targeted redundancies, and between 20 and 25 non-extensions of contract, will be made at Traralgon.
Ms Bell said a redundancy consultation phase closed on Friday, which would finalise the roles destined for the chopping block.
A Traralgon employee told The Express the mood of the office had “changed significantly” since the announcement.
“Whilst management have not said as much, it is clear that this slash and burn is in anticipation of the pending privatisation of the ASIC registry business,” the employee said.
“Staff who are not directly impacted were even in tears (last) Monday. I think reality has hit them that no job is safe, particularly in light of the privatisation talk.”
Community and Public Sector Union national president Alistair Waters said it was devastating jobs were being cut so soon after the registry sale tender announcement.
“The government has cut ASIC again in this budget, weakening its capacity to properly regulate big business and protect the Australian community,” Mr Waters said.
“ASIC and the government need to come clean and tell staff and the public what to expect from these further cuts on top of the job cuts last year.”
However, Ms Bell rejected any direct link between the pending redundancies and privatisation plans.
“Our registry business has had reductions in resourcing levels most years and we’ve been able to absorb those by becoming more efficient, by moving customers to online channels,” she said.
“We are not 100 per cent closed on that process. We are currently in a business planning cycle and working through that with the team.
“We won’t be stopping any (registry) functions but will be reducing the amount of effort in various communication activities and a slight (reduction of) service level for customers.”
Ms Bell said the expiration of up to 25 contracts of non-going employees would be decided by “case by case”.
“This will be primarily through performance based assessment and also in regard to function they perform in the call centre or registry services.”
When asked about staff morale, Ms Bell said it was difficult to make an “objective assessment”.
“I would just say it’s difficult for everyone involved to have to make decision about reducing staffing levels… it’s obviously not welcome news for staff,” Ms Bell said.
“I think everyone is continuing to do their job and servicing our customers and coping as well as they can in circumstances.”
The pending round of job cuts comes after 27 Traralgon workers took up voluntary redundancies in May 2014.