Open letter to Chief Executive Larry Marshall

Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski has written an open letter to Chief Executive Larry Marshall setting out the union’s reasons for taking action and calling on him to meet with CSIRO workers and hear their concerns directly.

Dr Larry Marshall
Chief Executive Officer, CSIRO

Dear Dr Marshall,

Enterprise Bargaining in CSIRO

The CSIRO Staff Association has been negotiating with CSIRO Executive and HR representatives for a new enterprise agreement for nearly a year. The current agreement nominally expired in August 2014 and the Association lodged our bargaining position with CSIRO in December 2013.

Over the last two financial years, 1 in 5 jobs at CSIRO have been lost. Staff workloads have intensified and the CSIRO Executive have set increased performance targets for the organisation relative to FTE levels. Staff have adapted as well as possible, including to new organisational arrangements and reduced support staff levels over the same period.

Looking forward, a new CSIRO Strategy will soon be in place which will require the full commitment of staff to succeed. CSIRO’s staff are now, more than ever, critical to CSIRO’s immediate future.

Yet the CSIRO Executive continues to seek to cut the working conditions, rights and real wages of staff by applying the Government’s regressive bargaining policy and not agreeing to a reasonable deal in negotiations.

CSIRO Executive has doggedly stated that the organisation has been directed to apply the bargaining policy by Minister Macfarlane. However you would be aware that, as an independent statutory agency constituted by the Science and Industry Research Act 1949, CSIRO is answerable on staffing matters to its Board, not the Minister or the Government. The policy has no legal standing in achieving an agreement between CSIRO and its staff under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Therefore, we again call on the CSIRO Executive and Board to reject the application of the Government’s regressive bargaining policy. Association members will not agree to a deal that forces their working conditions and rights backwards.

Industrial Action in CSIRO

Industrial action is a last resort but it is one of the few industrial rights that staff can access under the Fair Work Act 2009. Association members care deeply about their work at CSIRO and only take industrial action when they feel that the organisation’s leadership is not listening.

To date members have participated in work bans and limitation actions which are applying cumulative pressure and are authorised to continue until the end of June 2015. Members will escalate industrial action by taking half day stoppages by region in mid to late June. This will be the most significant industrial action in CSIRO’s history.

Work Stoppages in CSIRO

Shortly we will provide CSIRO with formal notice required under the Fair Work Act 2009 in relation to the June work stoppages. The stoppages will be undertaken with CPSU members in other public sector agencies, including the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Antarctic Division and Geoscience Australia.

We invite you to talk to Association members at any of the stoppage meetings to hear our concerns about working conditions and rights. In particular, I note that on your commencement as Chief Executive Officer, you publicly indicated your willingness to have a coffee and a conversation with members in this very circumstance. We look forward to you doing so.

Importantly we expect CSIRO Executive and HR to respect the rights of Association members to participate in the stoppages. We will not tolerate any actions that seek to dissuade or intimidate members from participating. We will enforce the rights contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the CSIRO Enterprise Agreement, including the normal application of flexible attendance arrangements around the stoppages.

Misinformation by CSIRO Executive

Association members have been exasperated by communications sent by CSIRO Executive Peter Mayfield to all staff regarding the taking of protected industrial action. For example on 28 April 2015, staff were advised by email that:

“In order for CSIRO to make preparations we ask that staff intending to participate in protected industrial action notify their line manger before their participation.”

Read by a staff member, coming from a CSIRO Executive, this statement is perceived as a mandatory request. Yet as CSIRO knows, under the Fair Work Act 2009, there is no obligation to notify an employer before protected industrial action is undertaken. This misinformation is not only obstructive, but it has also caused unnecessary anxiety amongst many Association members. We request that future communications on industrial action are correct.

Misinformation on ‘Streamlining’

Association members have also been aggravated by arguments put forward by CSIRO Executive and HR on ‘streamlining’ or stripping clauses from the CSIRO Enterprise Agreement into CSIRO policies and procedures. For example on 16 April 2015, staff were advised by email that:

“A particular point to note is that streamlining does not remove entitlements but changes where they will sit.”

This is incorrect. Provisions that are removed from an enterprise agreement into policy or procedure can be deleted or changed at a future time without the agreement of staff. That is precisely why we have conditions and rights in an enterprise agreement. Agreement provisions are legally enforceable at the Fair Work Commission. Provisions in employer policies or procedures are not. We request that future communications from CSIRO Executive on the real implications of ‘streamlining’ are correct.

I and other Staff Association representatives will continue to work with you and CSIRO Executive and HR to seek to resolve the enterprise bargaining impasse and move forward with the many challenges ahead at CSIRO.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Popovski

Secretary, CSIRO Staff Association

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