CSIRO must learn from bullying report

The union representing employees at CSIRO has welcomed the release of the second and final report of the independent investigation into bullying, harassment and unreasonable behaviour – also known as the Pearce Inquiry.

Led by Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce AO, the second report made a further five recommendations for CSIRO in addition to the 34 recommendations from preliminary findings handed down last August.

Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski called on CSIRO management to adopt all of the latest recommendations in their entirety.

“This has been a difficult process for many people at CSIRO, especially those who made submissions to the inquiry. I want to thank all of the participants for their courage in raising issues and challenging culture in CSIRO.

“The Staff Association calls on management to adopt all of Professor Pearce’s recommendations in full and to renew their commitment to consult with CSIRO staff and their representatives when it comes to the implementation of new policies and procedures,” he said.

Equal treatment

Importantly, the latest findings confirmed the view offered in the Staff Association’s submission to the inquiry that senior management must be treated equally, just like everyone else.

“There appears to be a prevalent perception that senior managers who are allegedly guilty of misconduct/unreasonable behaviour are treated differently and that penalties are less harsh or non-existent,” the submission read.

The second report acknowledged these concerns.

“There is some indication in the matters that have come to our attention that senior officers and members who were regarded by the Organisation as being significant performers have been allowed greater latitude in their behaviour towards others.

This is simply not acceptable and the message that it sends through the Organisation is very counter productive,” the report reads in part.

Restructure pressures

Mr Popovski said that the organisation needed to remain on guard against rising stress and pressure as CSIRO implements a major restructure and moves away from a matrix management system.

“These are difficult times at CSIRO with the restructure, another round of redundancies, a recruitment freeze, increasing workloads and the threat of funding cuts in the upcoming federal budget.

“Management need to be aware of the human impact and the potential for incidents where unreasonable behaviour may arise. We know from experience that funding pressures are real drivers of stress in the workplace,” he said.

It’s a point that the latest report reiterates.

“The risk factors which appeared to generate conflict, such as exclusion from research projects, the perceived need to be fully allocated to projects and pressure to secure funding, are likely to continue to be relevant… even when the matrix model is disbanded. We encourage CSIRO to remain focused on minimising and managing these risks,” the report says.

Integrity Office

Mr Popovski welcomed the commitment to establish an Integrity Office within CSIRO, while calling on management to consult with the Staff Association on it’s scope, staffing and set-up.

“The Integrity Office is a positive step but unless it is established in consultation with staff and their representatives, it may not attract much confidence or trust.

“In setting up the Integrity Office, management must – to quote the Chief Executive – make sure they walk the talk.

“A good start would be releasing the draft terms-of-reference for employee comment, agreeing to formally consult and meet with the Staff Association, and ensure that any new policy is complemented by enforceable procedures in the new Enterprise Agreement,” he said.

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One thought on “CSIRO must learn from bullying report

  1. Any new “integrity office” established by CSIRO absolutely MUST be resourced by personnel who have no additional operational responsibilities (i.e. HR/IR/Management) for whom the primary role is one of addressing allegations of inappropriate conduct.

    Any such panel convened to review allegations MUST contain at least one staff elected representative to ensure transparency.

    CSIRO should consider appointing any senior personnel to this integrity body from outside the organisation and the performance of these senior personnel should be assessed independently to the CSIRO and not via the standard Annual Performance Appraisal process.

    The senior officer presiding over this integrity body should preferentially answer to the CSIRO board or responsible minister and not the CEO or senior executive.

    It will be interesting to see how the CSIRO will go about establishing and supporting such a body. The so-called “SWIM” Team is farthest from the model which the CSIRO should be adopting.

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