Voices from the workplace

The attendance of large numbers of Staff Association members at the CPSU’s national stoppages  ensured the difficulties facing the CSIRO workforce were especially prominent.

Two of our members received an opportunity to speak to their fellow CPSU colleagues at the strike meetings. Deputy President Elizabeth Hulm delivered a passionate speech to the Perth event while Staff Association delegate Mike Collins revved up the crowd at Newcastle.

So what did they have to say?

Elizabeth Hulm

IMG_1056LIKE MANY other agencies CSIRO has been savaged in the last few years with one in five people losing their jobs but workloads haven’t changed –  it is just being done by less people.

To add insult to injury CSIRO management is telling us the cuts won’t count towards a productivity gain. The same can’t be said about their substantial executive bonuses – up to $167,000 for outgoing Chief Executive Megan Clark last year. In fact the top four executives earned over half a million dollars in bonuses in the last financial year. Just yesterday in a staff meeting new Chief Executive Larry Marshall defended these extra payments on top of already large salaries saying he doesn’t see it as a bonus but more as a ‘topping up’ of their salaries to a benchmark they measure themselves against. Larry even went as far as drawing a simple diagram to explain this to staff – we don’t need a diagram – we get it …you over value yourselves and under value us.

We have lost jobs, increased our workloads and lost our job security but the Government the Australian Public Service Commission and the heads of our agencies still want more – they are now after our conditions at work.

On the back of a cut of 1,300 jobs CSIRO management wants to cut retrenchment provisions – they want to reduce redeployment periods, reduce formal notice period – they want to be able to let people go faster – as a delegate I have supported many people as they go through a redundancy and I know those conditions matter and we shouldn’t give them up. The two things you need in that situation are the conditions in the agreement and the union!

Another condition they want to change – is to make increments, our performance and development recognition harder to get.

That condition exists as recognition that a worker after they have been twelve months in a job is more productive, more efficient than when they first started and that continues the longer we remain in our jobs – we are picking up new skills, taking on new tasks and we are amassing a lot of corporate knowledge – all that contributes to what we bring to our job and it should be recognised – now they are saying that isn’t enough – they want that added value for free and they want us to do even more.

Other things on their wish list is to put in qualifying periods before certain conditions can be accessed such as unpaid parental leave.

Management want to remove Maternity leave provisions from the agreement and into policy. In fact many of the nasties in our current negotiations are about shifting conditions from our agreements into policy where they will be ripe for cuts in the future without our consent. We say no. We are not that naive and we are not prepared to blindly risk our conditions to the whims of management.

CSIRO members – will you stand up for your conditions? We are proud to stand with members across all the public sector agencies to protect our conditions. We all make important contributions to Australia, we are proud of our achievement. By standing together we are sending a strong and loud message to the Government,  the Australian Public Service Commission and the heads of agencies and departments –  we aren’t prepared to lose our conditions and we will fight to defend our rights.

In closing I don’t want to speak as a delegate but as a grandmother.

I say thank you to every person in this room and to all members taking the stoppage that can’t make it to the mass meeting. I wan to thanks members across the country participating in stoppages because the stand we are taking today is the only chance for my grandson to have the same conditions and rights at work in the future.

We need to continue with this campaign for as long as it takes….to get enterprise agreements that are fair and reasonable. We need to keep talking to our colleagues who aren’t yet members and tell them how important this struggle is. Every member counts and the conditions are for all.

Thank you.

Mike Collins

Mike CollinsFIRSTY I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Awabakal people and pay our sincerest respect to their elders past and present.

Thanks to all CPSU members for being here today, to stand together for public service jobs, rights and conditions. We know it comes at a great cost to take this sort of action. None of us want to be in this situation, but we know this is the right response to the Government’s recent actions. Know that we are not alone, as staff meet today in Sydney Darwin and Perth, then across the country over the next week.

All of us in the public sector are used to the usual jargon-clad attacks … The “efficiency dividends”,  “organisational restructures”, “workforce efficacy initiatives”, ”skill-mix adjustment” or “personnel realignment” but the last twelve months have been unprecedented. At CSIRO we have been really hurting. We’ve witnessed 1,300 staff lose their jobs, that’s 1 in 5, and seen critical research abandoned.

We have not just been concerned about the terrible events of workers losing their jobs and the associated impact upon their families and the communities in which they live. We are deeply concerned about the long term impact upon Australian science and Australian society.

We’ve witnessed a sustained attack on science funding, with many other science programs, agencies and research centres attacked. And this will have a long lasting impact. You can’t switch science on and off: disband a laboratory and you destroy networks, skills and knowledge bases that take time and money to establish, and are hard to regenerate.

As Australia’s leading scientists, engineers and research support staff we work hard driving innovation here in Newcastle. Every day we work in the national interest, to keep Australia at the forefront of scientific and industrial research because we know the science of today will inform the decisions of tomorrow.

The work that happens here at the CSIRO energy centre goes towards increasing energy efficiency, decreasing the cost of electricity, clean power generation, and getting the best bang-for-buck out of our grid. I can’t think of a more universal way of contributing to Australia’s economic output than through intelligent research that builds a clean, cost effective, efficient energy sector.

Cutting Australia’s research capacity does not come without a cost to the nation. At best, we will miss the economic opportunities presented to us. At worst we will be thoroughly underprepared for the impacts of some of the significant global challenges we face as a nation.

At our site, staff morale has been at an all-time low, with workloads piling up onto remaining staff as we try to deliver projects which planned to use 20% more labour than we now have.

And now, those of us who’ve survived these cuts are now being slogged again. Slogged with a targeted attack on our conditions and workplace rights, in line with the Government’s regressive bargaining agenda. This is unacceptable.

To be stripped to the bone by cut after cut, then told that any pay rise, even just to keep up with market growth or increasing costs of living must be met by “productivity gains” like losing leave or working longer hours is not only a gross misuse of the concept of productivity, it’s a kick in the face.

We in the public sector work for the national interest. Whether we are delivering research, government services, looking after the sick or vulnerable, ensuring good governance or taking care of Australia’s revenue or expenditure, we work each day to build our nation. We are proud of our work and we are proud to be here today to say that this attack on our conditions and our workplace rights is not on.

The Australian people need to know that in Australia public research money is hard earned and well spent, with the benefits felt across the nation. They need to know that in Australia the public sector is a high value asset that delivers services and governance with the benefits felt across the nation.

They need to know that these services and their benefits are being undermined by this government’s attacks.

We must go home and tell our friends and families and our neighbours. We can tweet and post and Instagram and pin and share and blog. If someone asks you in passing how you are, just say “no I’m not ok, I work hard, and my agency does great work, and we are under attack”

As members, we must stay strong and stick together. We must go back to worktomorrow and ask our colleagues to join us.

Every agreement in the public sector has now expired and many of you have already beaten down some dud offers in your own agencies.

The pressure is building for the Government to abandon these attacks. They’ve back flipped on a bunch of no-good policy already. We can guarantee that as CPSU members at CSIRO, we will be fighting hard for them to drop this regressive policy as well.

Thank you.



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