Freeze sets in

Management have finally provided further clarification on the implementation and impact of CSIRO’s recruitment freeze, however questions remain.

Meanwhile, Staff Association representatives have travelled to Canberra to bring the issue to the attention of politicians and policymakers, as hundreds of concerned CSIRO employees sign the union’s pledge to melt the freeze.

Management clarification

After criticism at a lack of information and some mixed messages to staff and in the media, management have provided some clarification as to the operation and implementation of the recruitment freeze.

The freeze remains indefinite – despite now being referred to as ‘temporary’ – so the total number of affected positions remains unknown. However management have confirmed how many positions may be affected in the current financial year 2013-14.

In an email from CSIRO Human Resources, General Manager Trevor Heldt stated that as of 6 November, 315 non-casual contracted staff were employed on terms that ended in the current financial year. In addition, there were 262 casual staff whose contracts are set to expire in the same period – 577 in total.

Heldt maintains that management would ensure that the impact of the freeze would “not compromise CSIRO’s commitments to industry or national productivity,” adding that “CSIRO will still recruit to positions that are critical for its. Currently we have 24 jobs being filled internally and 63 externally.”

Management reiterated their position that the decision to freeze recruitment was taken by the executive alone and free from Federal Government direction or influence.

“This decision coincided with the announcement of changes to recruitment in the APS and was a decision taken by CSIRO, it was not imposed by Government and reflects CSIRO’s assessment of the appropriate way to manage risks associated with achieving the financial forecasts outlined in the 2013-14 Portfolio Budget Statements,” Heldt said.

As for the motivation behind the Executive Team’s decision, Heldt cites a failure “to meet the labour savings targets we set for ourselves in May this year.” No revised job loss figures have been provided, however.

“No end date has been set for the end to the recruitment changes but the Executive Team will review the situation early next year,” Heldt said.

Sign the pledge – help melt the freeze

Many hundreds of CSIRO employees have already signed the Staff Association’s pledge to help melt the freeze. All members are encouraged to promote the pledge in their workplaces and collect as many signatures as possible from their colleagues.

  • Download the Melt the Freeze pledge here.

Please return the pledges to your local delegate or the Staff Association office directly, no later than 10am Friday 20 December. Scan and email to csstaff@cpsu.org.au or fax to (03) 8620 6347.

Hiring freeze in the Parliamentary spotlight 

Meanwhile, Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski travelled to Canberra to speak to leading politicians about CSIRO’s hiring freeze and the revenue problems that continue to beset the organisation.

In addition to an appointment with Industry Minister Ian Mcfarlane’s Science and Research adviser, Sam met with Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Minister assisting the Opposition Leader for Science and Australian Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt. The visit also included meetings with key crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter.

Sam was on hand to hear a speech by Gai Brodtmann, Labor member for Canberra. Speaking on the Australian Research Council Amendment Bill (2013), Ms Brodtmann cited the example of CSIRO when describing the difficulties facing science and research in Australia.

“One of the issues that really concerns me as the member for Canberra is the significant staffing cuts facing the CSIRO,” Ms Brodtmann told the House of Representatives.

“The cutting of CSIRO jobs is already having a significant impact on my electorate… The nature of the work done by the CSIRO means it has a disproportionately higher number of non-ongoing staff. These are staff who are contracted for a specific project, a specific research task or seasonal work. Their positions may not be permanent, but they are no less significant.”

Ms Brodtmann went on to repeat the concerns and questions raised by the Staff Association in regards to CSIRO’s hiring freeze.

“In the words of CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski, ‘How can CSIRO develop the next generation of Australian innovation if their capacity to conduct research and development continues to be cut?’ CSIRO staff deserve to know: how long will the recruitment freeze remain in place?

“What areas of science and which sites will be impacted? What percentage of work performed by CSIRO staff will be declared critical? How many postdoctoral fellowships and Indigenous cadetships will be quarantined from the freeze? At the elite level in which the CSIRO operates, the research community is a small one, and these job losses will have a significant impact.

“How can we expect to keep talent in Australia if we cannot provide jobs at our premier scientific research institute?” Ms Brodtmann asked.

More information

  • Read Gai Brodtmann’s speech in Hansard.
  • Visit our campaign page here.

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