Bullying investigation a ‘wake-up’ call for CSIRO

Bullying investigation a wake-up call

The union representing employees at CSIRO has said that the independent investigation into bullying and harassment should serve as a wake-up call for the science and research organisation.

The Secretary of the CSIRO Staff Association, Mr Sam Popovski, today released the union’s submission to The Independent Investigation for Allegations of Workplace Bullying and Other Unreasonable Behaviour.

The inquiry – which is being conducted by Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce AO – will soon begin deliberations on the extent of the problem in CSIRO, with the deadline for submissions coming into effect on Friday 7 June.

Read the submission 

Download the complete submission here.

Reporting challenges

“While from our perspective, the total number of bullying and harassment cases in CSIRO is similar to other Federal agencies and departments, it’s clear that CSIRO staff are increasingly concerned about the issue.

Mr Popovski said that individual cases were often made more complex by a culture where some staff did not feel comfortable coming forward to report bad behaviour.

“Our members tell us that the warning signs are often ignored and informal complaints fail to be dealt with proactively. A culture of conflict avoidance encourages tensions to remain unresolved, subsequently leading to rapid and explosive escalation.”

“The patchy application of existing procedures to deal with bullying has made reporting more difficult – making the task of getting an accurate picture of the size and the scope of the problem that much harder.”

Make HR just a little more human

A lack of access often meant that existing staff support mechanisms were rendered ineffective. The structure and location of Human Resources (HR) staff meant they were organisationally aloof from the employees they are meant to support, Mr Popovski said.

“The geographic distribution of HR staff is uneven, with a number of small to medium-sized CSIRO sites without on-site support.

“These staff are not able to talk to HR face-to-face, particularly when problems first arise.

“Face-to-face support can be delayed, or not supplied at all, due to cost considerations, particularly in terms of access to early mediation.

“We believe the structural arrangements for CSIRO Human Resources should be reviewed, including an assessment of the need and capacity to provide on-site support, in consultation with staff and the Staff Association,” Mr Popovski said.

Protecting the brand

Mr Popovski said that managers were often torn between protecting and supporting individual employees and corporate considerations, such as protecting CSIRO’s reputation and public standing.

“Protecting the brand can often be at the expense of individuals. After all, how do you maintain processes for dealing with internal conflicts that are fair, just and transparent if you’re paranoid about tarnishing a national icon?”

More information 

Download the complete submission here.

For further background or to arrange an interview, please email anthony.keenan@cpsu.org.au or call 0410 330 764.

1 thought on “Bullying investigation a ‘wake-up’ call for CSIRO

  1. Its quite simple to improve the current situation. 1)The CPSU form its own independent database of individuals reported to be bullies. It would specify if the bullies are managers or not. 2)The CPSU forces the employer to maintain its own database of bullying managers as OH&S liabilities and takes steps to remove or the minimize risks in accordance with the OH&S risk management principles and strategies.

    At least that way trends could be identified about where the workplace psychopaths exist (estimated 3% of the population) and would give the victims (including myself) and CPSU a bit more power to have real problems with management recognized and addressed by the employer, and likely lead to the substantial amount of rejected Comcare claims due to bullying hopefully decrease. The currently ridiculous situation of the commonwealth employer and Comcare denying liability by misinformation (presumably because of the embarrassment to a “fair” employer and does not want to be seen as liable) etc and the employer using such inappropriate personnel as a unofficial means of unnatural “attrition”. Most of the general population are aware that another popular method for government employers to cover their tracks and protect these unreasonable managers is to allow them to transfer about within the government. It is completely unacceptable that a bully manager can move about to reap future havoc on the lives and livelihoods on other workers.

    The OHS system within the Commonwealth is also sadly lacking when it comes to bullying and harassment within management.

    Its about time the Unions in Australia got back into the “head kicking” mode of years gone by that saw vast improvements in workers rights that have been successively worn down, or away, over the last twenty or so years.


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