The level of workplace stress being placed on Centrelink staff in Tasmania is worrying their union.
Figures show that more than one third of staff allocated to front of house services have been cut from the Centrelink Service Centre at Devonport since 2019.
Community and Public Sector secretary Zac Batchelor said union members believed the queues in recent days were exacerbated by "widespread cuts to the staff allocated to front of house services in Centrelink Service Centres".
"In the last week our members have reported increases in customer aggression and stressful cases of people turning up to Centrelink offices, advising staff they have recently returned from overseas," Mr Batchelor said.
"Our members are, and will be, on the front line during this crisis providing an essential service to the community.
"The months ahead will be some of the hardest days of our members' working lives."
Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said an extra 1500 staff were being deployed to Centrelink offices.
"Services Australia is rapidly redeploying existing staff to call centres and to processing, and hiring staff as quickly as they can," Mr Robert said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced 5,000 extra staff for Services Australia and Mr Robert said training had begun for them to start next Monday..
But Mr Batchelor said Services Australia already was understaffed
"The Morrison Government should have anticipated this surge in need, and the fact they didn't or ignored it is as short-sighted as it is disgraceful," he said.
"As we have seen from the level of people accessing Centrelink services this week, people around Tasmania are extremely concerned about their welfare and their livelihoods, and there are clear steps the government must immediately take to respond."
"There is no doubt Services Australia is understaffed and overworked at the best of times. Under normal circumstances as many as 55 million calls to Services Australia go unanswered every year."
The CPSU is concerned that labour hire workers with no sick leave would suffer from the extra workload.
"The Launceston Service Centre is a prime example of this, with more than half the staff in the office employed through labour hire arrangements," he said.
"Our members shouldn't have to choose between staying at home and paying the rent, particularly in a pandemic when the community is relying on them so much."