Public Service Commission puts the brakes on CSIRO bargaining

The commencement of caretaker provisions has prompted the Australian Public Service Commission (ASPC) to put the brakes on bargaining across the public sector.

The new ASPC advice will effectively postpone the progress of enterprise agreement negotiations at CSIRO until after the federal election, according to Staff Association negotiators.

APSC effectively calls time on bargaining

The APSC advice relates to the caretaker period, spanning the “time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.”

While the advice covers multiple scenarios depending on the advancement of the bargaining process, importantly the APSC says that “once the caretaker period commences, unless there is a legal or statutory requirement to proceed with a vote or take another significant step involved in the bargaining process, it may be preferable to defer until after the election.”

What does this mean for CSIRO?

In a recent email to all staff, leader of the management negotiation team and CSIRO Energy Director Peter Mayfield admitted that “we remain some way apart with the majority of claims not agreed by either Bargaining Representatives or CSIRO.”

Dr Mayfield went on to detail the steps management intended to pursue regarding their proposed offer in the caretaker environment.

The first step is to submit their proposed agreement to APSC for preliminary assessment – which is expected to take “several weeks” – to allow the commission to “identify if there are any compliance issues which CSIRO and the Bargaining Representatives can discuss and seek to address before determining and progressing with next steps in the approval processes.”

This time frame of “several weeks” coupled with the APSC suggestion “that it may be preferable” to defer any “significant step” in the bargaining process “until after the election,” casts significant doubt on any prospect of an all staff ballot on management’s proposed agreement

Staff Association perspective

Bargaining representatives from the Staff Association negotiation team consider the prospects of APSC approval of management’s offer and a subsequent ballot of CSIRO staff during the caretaker period to be almost zero.

However this latest delay of the beleaguered bargaining process does provide Staff Association members and the CSIRO workforce pause for thought and consideration of what’s at stake for us in this Federal Election on rights and conditions, as well as in reversing the current job cut proposals.

The Staff Association has produced a Frequently Asked Questions guide covering the current status of enterprise bargaining as the election approaches. The guide includes links to useful resources including management’s latest proposal with changes tracked clause-by-clause against the current agreement and union documents that analyse management’s proposed changes and measure the progress of member’s bargaining position.

As we head to the election the Staff Association will have more to say on the track record of the Coalition’s public sector policies in government and the alternative options being proposed by opposition parties.

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