Bullying and harassment in CSIRO

Bullying and harassment

Download a poster by clicking on the image

Given recent media coverage of bullying and harassment in CSIRO, a number of members have contacted the Staff Association seeking clarity on this complex topic.

Pearce Investigation – Final Advice to Members

1. The Staff Association sought assurances that current staff who participate in Phase 1 of the Investigation, will receive direct responses from the investigator on the matters raised in their submission. Emeritus Professor Pearce has confirmed that each person who makes a submission will receive information on the outcomes of the investigator’s consideration of the submission (consistent with Paragraph 7(e) of the investigation’s terms of reference).

The Staff Association has also received clarification from CSIRO that the findings and recommendations from Phase 1 will be broadly available.

2. Staff who are currently the subject of bullying or unreasonable behaviour matters are able to make a submission to the Pearce Investigation – this can be done at the same time as any steps being undertaken as part of the grievance and/or dispute procedures in the CSIRO Enterprise Agreement on those matters.

3. The Staff Association will be making a submission into the Pearce Investigation, drawing on the experiences of our members and delegates and highlighting broader organisational barriers and challenges. Confidential member information will not be disclosed under any circumstances by the Staff Association, unless individual members provide written permission and direction to do so.


Recent coverage

Information and resources provided by HWL Ebsworth Lawyers

Serious issue

The effects of bullying and harassment can be profound and the damage lasting – not only to the people directly involved – but to other employees and professional reputations.

These interpersonal disputes are often tricky, messy and difficult to define, let alone resolve.

So what is the Staff Association’s approach to bullying and harassment complaints in CSIRO?

Improving workplace culture

One of our first responsibilities is to help employees work collectively to make their workplaces safer. Like many unions, the Staff Association has a long history of advocacy when it comes to workplace safety.

We support workplace policy and programs that encourage greater awareness and reporting of bullying and harassment. The Staff Association also seeks to educate employees in both recognising unacceptable behaviour and constructing workable solutions.

However the issue of bullying and harassment presents a challenge to the collective approach due to the interpersonal and often individual nature of disputes.

Supporting people

We are totally committed to supporting members on a case-by-case basis. Staff Association organisers and delegates regularly provide individual assistance to our members who have been bullied or harassed. We also provide support to members who may be the subject of vexatious claims of intimidation.

The advice we provide is supportive, realistic – and above all – confidential. Maintaining some level of privacy is important to achieving practical solutions.

The situation in CSIRO

While the vast majority of CSIRO employees treat each other with respect and courtesy, there is anecdotal evidence that the incidence of bullying and harassment is increasing. Staff Association organisers have reported more cases from members seeking assistance with the problem.

Most CSIRO workplaces – while not without risks – are generally safe and the working conditions are decent. However CSIRO is not perfect, there are trouble spots and plenty of room overall for improvement.

What happens next?

Just like physical safety, the Staff Association expects that CSIRO maintain a zero tolerance approach to behaviours that pose a risk to psychological health and wellbeing.

The issue was discussed in detail during December’s Consultative Council meeting. Management revealed a range of strategies as part of CSIRO’s response to the Comcare improvement notice. Some of this work has already commenced, such as the e-learning training currently being rolled out nationally. Other initiatives such as a larger revamp of policy in this area will take longer.

There’s a long way to go, but it’s a start. The Staff Association will conduct an education campaign for members on bullying and harassment early next year, to ensure the issue does not slip off the agenda.

Download this bulletin – with poster – hereFor the poster only, click here

Contact your local delegate or Staff Association organiser if you would like more information or to arrange a confidential discussion.

2 thoughts on “Bullying and harassment in CSIRO

  1. You are quoted as stating on this web page; “These interpersonal disputes are often tricky, messy and difficult to define, let alone resolve.”, which clearly proves that the CSIRO Staff Association has no understanding of what bullying is about or the plight of the unspoken many who have suffered at as a result of the toxic culture inside the CSIRO.

  2. The CSIRO Staff Association expects zero tolerance of bullying and harassment in CSIRO and we work with our members everyday to seek to prevent it. We support and encourage members to report bullying and harassment at the earliest opportunity and work hard to try and ensure that allegations are investigated promptly and if found to be accurate that those responsible are held accountable. The quoted comment simply reflects our experience that when bullying and harassment in work relationships is not resolved appropriately and in a timely manner, disputes often become more difficult to resolve.


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