Recently, Staff Association representatives met with CSIRO Human Resources (HR) representatives and the picture in the wider public sector also became clearer.
What was the meeting with CSIRO HR about?
On Thursday 5 September, CSIRO HR representatives called a meeting with the Staff Association to explain that the intent of the CSIRO Executive was ‘to achieve a timely outcome and pay increase’. Both parties discussed timeframes and indicated that each would be ready to begin discussions by no later than November this year (12 months before the nominal expiry date of the current agreement).
However, CSIRO HR also raised the possibility of a ‘rollover’ without providing any specifics.
What is a ‘rollover’?
A ‘rollover’ normally refers to a new EA, which contains pay rises for future years and little or no change to working conditions. However, currently in the wider public sector, some Department and Agency Heads are using a specific mechanism called a determination to provide pay rises but completely avoiding enterprise bargaining.
What is a ‘determination’?
A determination is a specific provision of the Australian Public Service (APS) Act, which gives powers to a Department or Agency Head in the public service, to determine the pay and conditions of staff in that Department or Agency. It is a unilateral determination which can be revoked at any time. It is not enforceable in the same way as an EA e.g. pay rises may be withdrawn and enforceable working conditions only perpetuate if the existing EA is not terminated by the employer in the future.’
Could a determination happen at CSIRO?
CSIRO is not part of the APS and is not subject to the APS Act, so a determination could not happen in the same way at CSIRO as it could happen in APS departments and agencies. A legal provision available to CSIRO is Section 32 of the Science and Industry Research (CSIRO) Act which states in part that ‘the terms and conditions of service of officers appointed under this section are such as are determined by the Chief Executive.’
Notably, CSIRO Executive have repeatedly not used the powers of this section of the CSIRO Act to reject the application of the Federal Government’s bargaining policy previously or to reject the application of the ASL cap policy.
What are our choices if we want to bargain?
Under the Fair Work Act, enterprise bargaining is formally initiated by the employer, unless a majority support determination is sought by employees. A majority support determination is a process where a majority of employees indicate to the Fair Work Commission that they want to bargain. The Staff Association is intending to bargain and has advised CSIRO Executive and HR that we are ready to commence the process in November. If CSIRO Executive chooses not to bargain, Staff Association representatives will immediately consult with members, including on the option of achieving a majority support determination.
Why is bargaining preferable to a determination mechanism?
Bargaining enables a new, fully enforceable agreement to be put in place. Negotiations occur on a range of matters and staff ultimately determine the outcome. Although a determination can appear to be initially tempting, the ability to revoke any or all of the pay rises; coupled with the possibility of loss of enforceable working conditions due to the existing EA expiring and being terminated; are both fundamental threats to future guaranteed pay and conditions.
What can members do now?
Share this information with your colleagues. Have conversations at morning tea and lunch. The Staff Association will continue to produce more workplace materials and keep members informed. Stay tuned for our Enterprise Bargaining 2020 survey in coming weeks.
If your colleagues are not yet members, ask them to join to have a say in the survey and to build our strength to achieve the best outcome for staff. If you’re not a member and want to support the achievement of better pay and employment conditions at CSIRO, join the Staff Association today.