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Border Force

Border Force is slashing its Western Australian workforce just one week before Christmas, its busiest period. 

Crikey has seen an email from a senior Border Force management figure to all Western Australia “intermittent and irregular employees [IIE]” informing them of the cuts. It states that due to “significant budget pressure … I will only be able to afford around one third of the current level of IIE usage going forward. This measure will commence from 17 Dec.”

Crikey understands these cuts will mean both a reduction in staff and shorter shifts for those that stay on. 

Intermittent and irregular employees are essentially hyper-casuals. They have no set location or regular hours. Shifts can be offered at short notice. In addition to working at Perth Airport, mostly processing passengers, WA Border Force staff can be sent to work at regional airports like Port Hedland, or to Fremantle port to deal with cruise ships.

The internal email states this may not be the end of it, and it seems like it might not just be Western Australia affected: 

It should be noted that this figure will need to be reviewed regularly and may be subject to further change should the overall budget saving measures not be sufficient to enable us to meet budget. While the quantum may differ from region to region, I can advise that a similar reduction strategy is being undertaken taken nationally to address the budget situation in those regions. 

The email acknowledges that a job loss a week before Christmas is “not good” timing, telling affected staff “I am conscious that this will have an impact on yourselves and your families and comes at a challenging time of the year”. 

The email also appears to rule out any relief those employees elsewhere in the organisation, directly addressing those who applied for a recent non-ongoing recruitment process:

As you know the process was paused last month and at this time we will only be able to look at restarting that process should there be a revised budget picture that makes it affordable.

According to the email, the chief of staff (CoS) team have “put forward a case for new contracts to be provided to affected IIEs … At this stage I cannot provide further advice in regards to that decision, however as soon as they are aware the CoS team will let you know”.  

What the email doesn’t address, is how those left will deal with a stripping away of two thirds of a workforce during the peak season for airports. 

Crikey has been unable to confirm the affected number of employees.

This revelation follows closely the damning leak that revealed one in five Border Force staff had recently experienced bullying or harassment at work and the same portion had experienced discrimination, and that workers are making claims for compensation for psychological trauma and are subject to shoddy training. 

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Australian Border Force provided the following comment:

“The Australian Border Force regularly realigns resources across its enforcement, compliance and facilitation efforts to manage priorities within existing budgets.

“We continue to manage increasing passenger volumes at our international airports and have made significant advancements, including through the use of Smartgates and improved intelligence holdings, to improve passenger processing capabilities.

“The ABF has an agile, disciplined and professional workforce and will continue to deliver on our mission to protect Australia’s border and enable legitimate travel and trade.” 

Peter Fray

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