DPTI jobs at risk in maintenance shake-up

The future is uncertain for staff and contractors in Murray Bridge and across country South Australia.

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A decision to outsource work to a private provider could cost a dozen or more state government jobs in Murray Bridge, and more elsewhere in country South Australia.

Maintaining state government properties across the Murraylands, Mallee, Coorong and surrounding regions is the job of a facilities services team within the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.

Staff based at an office on Thomas Street, pictured, respond to calls from schools, hospitals, police stations and other local agencies, managing repairs, maintenance and construction projects.

When they need work done, they preference local contractors.

The department’s website describes facilities management as “integral” to the government’s commitment to looking after buildings that house “essential community services”.

Yet the state government recently decided to outsource that role to a private company.

The decision will take effect next year.

Transport Minister Stephan Knoll told Murray Bridge News the government wanted to “leverage”, or make the most of, the expertise of local private-sector workers.

Private companies already managed a majority of the 5000 state-owned facilities across South Australia, he said.

Cleaning company Spotless is contracted to provide facilities management in two of three Adelaide regions.

Mr Knoll insisted that the change would not result in any “net loss of jobs” to the Murraylands.

“These sites will still need to be managed and maintained, but instead of government doing it, private and local workers will be,” he said.

However, the Public Service Association has raised questions about the future of DPTI staff in Murray Bridge and seven other regional offices, and the possible effect on the local contractors they employ.

“The level of privatisation in the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure is now so high that it is in danger of fundamentally changing the role of the department from providing the public with high quality transport and infrastructure systems to managing private contracts,” the union said in a statement.

“This will mean the community completely loses the history, skills and expertise of over 1000 staff, including over 350 salaried positions, as members move from secure jobs to insecure work and poor working conditions or into a future of unemployment.

“In addition, there is an indirect job impact which is still too hard to calculate.”

While the decision will bring changes locally, it will not be an entirely new arrangement for DPTI.

DPTI had already announced a decision to outsource another of its functions, road maintenance, to a private operator from 2021.

On Tuesday morning Mr Knoll announced that contractor Fulton Hogan would maintain state roads across a region which included the Murraylands.

The New Zealand-based company employed hundreds of South Australians, he said.

Fulton Hogan’s contract will be for seven years, with options for up to another six.

Photo: Peri Strathearn. Image: Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.