Science workers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will begin a campaign of industrial action to protect working conditions, rights and pay which are currently threatened by the Federal Government’s unworkable bargaining policy.
The escalation follows the conclusion of a Protected Action Ballot of CSIRO Staff Association members which demonstrated strong support for industrial action not only to break the bargaining impasse but to send a message to management and the Federal Government that following massive cuts to CSIRO funding jobs and research, attacks on working conditions will not be tolerated.
Ballot results reveal strong support for industrial action
More than 88 per cent of the members that voted endorsed a campaign of protected industrial action, ranging from work bans through to strike action.
Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said that the results demonstrated strong support to step up the campaign to protect working conditions and rights at CSIRO.
“CSIRO employees have had enough. In the past twelve months they’ve suffered drastic funding cuts, witnessed the cancellation of critical research and farewelled 1 in 5 of their cherished colleagues.
“CSIRO workers feel like they are being targeted for doing their job, for fulfilling their vocation as scientists, especially after last year’s funding cuts. And there are no guarantees that CSIRO funding will not be cut again when this year’s federal budget is handed down in less than a month.
“Now the CSIRO workforce is being asked to accept cuts to their conditions and their rights at work. That’s clearly unacceptable and Staff Association members have voted emphatically to defend their interests through a campaign of industrial action,” he said.
Industrial action set to begin 30 April
“The Staff Association continues to seek a resolution to the bargaining impasse through negotiations with CSIRO management. The next negotiation meeting will take place on Wednesday 29 April,” Mr Popovski said.
Should CSIRO management refuse to change tack at the next negotiation meeting on the first round of protected industrial action will commence from Thursday 30 April. This will include bans and limitations that will target management reporting – not scientific output – including the recording and supply of efficiency data and attending face-to-face meetings with management.
“These bans are not designed to harm science, quite the opposite. Instead they are targeted at management and government reporting. If management won’t support CSIRO staff, they cannot expect their cooperation in measuring their scientific efficiency.
“CSIRO staff will instead spend less time on red tape and more time on their research,” Mr Popovski said.
First cuts to CSIRO jobs and research, now working conditions targeted
Last year’s federal budget cut of $115 million combined with declining external earnings resulted in hundreds of jobs lost, site closures and the abandonment of research. It is estimated that CSIRO will shed almost 1,300 jobs in a two year period, representing a 20 percent cut to the workforce.
Meanwhile – despite staff morale plummeting to record lows – CSIRO management has insisted on applying the Federal Government’s hostile public sector bargaining policy which mandates cuts to working conditions, strips away legal rights and protections in return for pay increases of between 0 – 1 percent per year.
“CSIRO management must change their position and reject the Federal Government’s policy to cut workplace conditions and rights, otherwise we must – and will – take action,” Mr Popovski said.
Workers across the public sector are taking action
“CSIRO staff are joining tens of thousands of public sector workers who are pushing back against the Government’s unworkable bargaining policy,” said Community and Public Sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood.
CSIRO is one of 11 public sector agencies/departments that are taking or planning industrial action; they include Agriculture, Tax, Human Services, Veterans’ Affairs, Environment, Employment, Geoscience Australia, CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Criminology and Bureau of Meteorology.
“CSIRO staff will now be part of a larger battle to protect rights, conditions and pay,” Ms Flood said.
“Public sector workers don’t take industrial action lightly but they have been pushed to this point by a government that has already cut 11,000 jobs and is now attacking workplace rights and conditions.”
“It’s high time the Government abandoned its unworkable bargaining policy and sit down with us to talk abou how we can reach sensible agreements,” Ms Flood said.
Bargaining for the pay and conditions of 159,000 public servants has been under way for a year but to date no agreement has been reached in any of the 117 agencies.
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