Funding black hole a threat to CASS staffing – bulletin

Since at least February Staff Association members have been hearing rumours of problems with CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) funding. On a number of occasions scheduled announcements to staff have been postponed. In addition (particularly in Regional sites Parkes and Culgoora) there has been an ongoing reduction in staffing through positions not being filled. This has led to a reduction in science capability and understandably low morale. Last week the Staff Association received advice that an announcement was going to be made this week to CASS staff.

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Last Friday (7/10) the CASS chief and CEO were in Parkes as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Parkes Radio Telescope. They addressed staff telling them what a great job they were doing. Incredibly by Monday (straight after the conclusion of the Parkes celebrations) there was a confirmed date for the CASS announcement – the next day!

Cuts to CASS funding and staffing announced.

Via videoconference yesterday (11/10) CASS staff were informed of a 15 million dollar shortfall in the budget (even after being allocated an additional 11 million by CSIRO, not filling a number of positions, and delaying the hiring of staff at Geraldton and Murchison).

The proposed staffing reduction in the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder project (ASKAP) is 10. In addition the budget for the Parkes site is to be cut by around 40% in the long term as it moves to remote observing and the number of receivers is to be substantially reduced. Further staff cuts at the already depleted Parkes site are going to be achieved through the non renewal of term employees and natural attrition.

 Marsfield impact.

Around ten staff may be made potentially redundant from the engineering and ASKAP project specialist groups at Marsfield. CASS management are hopeful that these numbers may be reduced through the non renewal of some term employees and redeployment. In addition around 3 ICT staff may be potentially redundant as they are dependent on ASKAP funding. The Staff Association has asked for more information about the cessation dates for term employees to assess how this may reduce the number of potentially redundant ongoing staff. CASS management have also indicated that redundancy substitution is an option and will be sending information to staff on this topic.

Regional Sites Working Group.

CSIRO and the Staff Association are in the middle of a review of CSIRO Regional sites. The impact of the CASS announcement on Parkes members in particular has made them understandably cynical about the stated intention of this working group to improve the “vibrancy” of regional sites!

The process from here.

CASS management will be talking to staff to attempt to identify other areas where savings may be made to reduce the impact of the current budgetary situation. The Staff Association in the meantime will be talking to affected members and staff and has another meeting set up with CASS management in a fortnight’s time. We will be providing support and advice to all affected members and members should contact their local Workplace Delegate or NSW organiser Jeff Carig if you have any questions or concerns. The CASS Executive will be meeting to make further decisions at the end of October.

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