CSIRO’s management bargaining team have revealed – contrary to previous advice – that the release of a proposed agreement and pay offer remains weeks, if not months, away.
The embarrassing disclosure contradicts recent assurances from Chief Executive Larry Marshall that senior management are ‘very close’ to releasing a proposed agreement for staff consideration.
Not close at all
In an August 2015 letter to the Staff Association – written almost a year following the nominal expiry date of the current agreement – Dr Marshall admitted there was work to do but struck an upbeat tone.
“CSIRO does not yet have all the necessary approvals to release our Enterprise Agreement offer to staff and Bargaining Representatives; however we are continuing to work hard and are very close,” Dr Marshall said.
However when pressed on the timing of the expected release, the management bargaining team confessed they are still to secure senior ministerial approvals; a process that could take weeks, if not months.
Management negotiators did report some updates, confirming that the Australian Public Service Commission – who have cooked up the deal with CSIRO behind closed doors – had approved the proposal. Approval has also been secured from the Department of Finance.
However the proposed agreement now must receive the approval of the Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane. This process is ‘expected’ to take at least two weeks.
Here’s where it gets truly incomprehensible. After leaving Minister Macfarlane, the proposed agreement will travel to the office of the Minister for Employment, Senator Eric Abetz, for his assent. Management provided no timeframe for this stage of the process.
Expect an ugly deal
Only when the imprimatur of Minister Abetz is secured will the proposed deal be provided to bargaining representatives and CSIRO staff.
Management negotiators are still refusing to guarantee the Staff Association’s request for all bargaining representatives to receive at least five working days to analyse the offer before general release to CSIRO staff. This request is in accordance with the Fair Work Act, where bargaining representatives are to be provided with opportunity to respond to proposals made for the agreement.
In some ways, management’s reluctance is easy to understand. Given CSIRO’s strict adherence to the Abbott Government’s regressive bargaining policy, the proposed agreement – whenever it finally arrives – will be ugly.
Many workplace conditions will be stripped out into CSIRO policy where they can be changed at the management’s whim. Many workplace rights staff currently access will no longer be legally enforceable.
The pay offer will be extremely low, within a range of zero and 1.5 percent per annum. There will be no back pay. There will be no acknowledgement of the sacrifices CSIRO staff have already made as a result of brutal cuts to funding, jobs and research.
Watch this space
In coming weeks the Staff Association will begin to recap negotiations and highlight some of the important conditions and rights likely to be at risk. Protected industrial action through work bans on effort logging and working more than 7.21 hours also continues throughout September.
If you’re not a member of the union, there’s never been a more important time to join. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Staff Association membership.