The Staff Association represents a wide variety of CSIRO workers across Australia, including regional New South Wales. Earlier this month a union delegation hit the road and visited CSIRO staff at Parkes, Coonabarabran, Myall Vale and Narrabri.
“It’s great to get out and visit CSIRO sites in the country,” Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said.
“The work of Staff Association members is so impressive and the unique connection of CSIRO research with local communities and industries is something special.”
New South Wales representative Mike Collins and organiser Lachlan McSpedden also went along to hear from members and be inspired at each site.
With a combined operating time over nearly a century, it may come as a surprise to some that the Parkes telescope and Narrabri Paul Wild Observatory continue to drive developments in radio astronomy and sensor array technology.
“There’s not only the great sense of a proud legacy in terms of scientific achievement but a desire to keep pushing for future breakthroughs in research,” NSW Councillor Mike Collins said.
These sites have been working in conjunction with Sydney’s Marsfield laboratory to continue their important contribution to global astronomy. The development of the ultra-wideband receiver is an example of the in-house research and development that is coming out of collaborative work between these sites.
CSIRO staff talked about some of the challenges of maintaining these facilities. Parkes and Narrabri – run on a team of approximately twenty people – punch above their operational weight. Staff Association members reflected on the challenge of maintaining the unique telescopes while still fulfilling research and operational milestones.
Changes in astronomy
The Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) at Coonabarabran is being transferred out of the Department of Industry Innovation and Science with an operational takeover by a University Consortium led by the Australian National University.
The Department has been working to communicate the changes to staff throughout and while there is a commitment to maintaining the facility and its functions; the employment conditions of staff are not yet determined.
Staff Association members in AAO are concerned that there will be significant changes to how they are employed at ANU, which may result in lost access to redundancy, consultation and general notice period rights.
“The Staff Association will continue to work with our members in AAO to voice their views and represent them in this process,” NSW Organiser Lachlan McSpedden said.
Making progress in the workplace
The meeting at the Myall Vale cotton research institute included a discussion on the challenges that technical staff in CSIRO face in promotion cases. A lack of positions to be promoted into, despite work being performed at a higher level, was a major factor highlighted by members.
While there were some practical suggestions on strategies to win cases for promotion, it is clear that the development of technical staff pathways at CSIRO is an issue that the Staff Association should advance.