Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski reflects on the year that was and asks whether CSIRO may be headed for a more stable 2018.
IT’S NOT AN EASY TASK to look back on recent events and make complete sense of our working lives at CSIRO and judge the health and standing of the organisation; especially after years of cuts. Predictions for the future are even more problematic; for instance, the latest Turnbull Government reshuffle means we have yet another new minister who will now exercise portfolio responsibility for CSIRO.
Perhaps it’s a case of plus ça change however there are some developments, shifts and observations on 2017 that are worth considering.
Back on track again?
From a jobs perspective, CSIRO total staffing numbers have stabilised since 1 in 5 jobs were lost in 2014 and 2015. Strategy 2020 has been in place for a while, with more staff now aware and engaged in CSIRO future direction.
However, staff morale is only slowly recovering from the dire lows reached in 2016. The bruises from the most divisive enterprise bargaining round in the organisation’s history have not fully healed.
Trust in CSIRO senior management remains very low. Organisational changes – particularly in relation to science prioritisation and managing potential redundancies – is still not considered by the greater workforce to be transparent or fair.
Opportunities for growth?
So, for all the talk of embracing the brave new world of innovation; has this translated into opportunities for the organisation to grow? It’s a mixed report card.
Data61 has been supported by the Government and the CSIRO Executive, however the integration of Data61 into CSIRO hasn’t been seamless.
The ON program has been celebrated as a success, but many staff are not seeing specific outcomes in relation to their own research.
The commercialisation push and customer focus is not new to most CSIRO researchers. It’s broadly understood that we must connect with industry and this is always important for growing CSIRO research and development.
What’s being left behind?
However, as we look to the future, are we leaving valuable things behind? CSIRO exists to assist Australian industry but the question must be asked if the Government and CSIRO Executive have narrowed the scope of the mission to the national’s detriment.
In recent years, staff have seen public good research being devalued, particularly environmental and climate change science. And with industries like Manufacturing and Minerals on the decline, CSIRO is seeking to reduce its research effort into these areas as well.
All to what end? As we leave behind landmark research capabilities, what are we replacing them with? Will the new trends be able to generate the same outputs for Australian industry and ultimately for our largest stakeholder, the Australian people?
Science and innovation is a collective pursuit. It relies on diverse people working together in a collaborative way. The Staff Association continues to protect and progress the interests of our members in CSIRO and in society. We do this because we believe in the value of CSIRO and the work that our members do.
It’s difficult to know what 2018 will bring. But I’m confident that the organisation will improve if CSIRO staff continue to speak up as a collective and assert the central contribution that the workforce makes in building a better CSIRO.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Senator Arthur Sinodinos who has stepped down from cabinet due to serious illness. Senator Sindinos has always been willing to listen and engage with CSIRO staff. Congratulations to the incoming Ministerial team of Minister Michaelia Cash and Assistant Minister Zed Seselja. Our thanks to Senator Kim Carr and Adam Bandt MP plus all the federal representatives that support the work and the people of CSIRO.
I’d like to pay special thanks to our Staff Association Council and President Sonia Grocke. Thank you as well to our team of organisers, led by our National Organiser Michael McDonald, plus our support staff.
Finally, my thanks to the delegates and members of the Staff Association. Your continued support for the work our union does means everything, and I would like to offer each of you best wishes for a safe and relaxing festive season.
CSIRO Staff Association Secretary