Staff Association builds pressure on Marshall to act against CSIRO staffing cap

Chief Executive Larry Marshall is under pressure to step up his response to staffing cap restrictions at CSIRO with a recent appearance at Senate Estimates soon to be followed with a date at the workplace watchdog.

CSIRO management are due to appear before the Fair Work Commission on Monday 11 November to defend allegations that the increased engagement of contractors and labour hire – specifically to deal with the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap restrictions – represents a breach of the Enterprise Agreement.

Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski again called on Dr Marshall to take decisive action.

“Enough is enough. Larry Marshall and the CSIRO Executive must make immediate representations – through the processes now clearly outlined and suggested by the Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann – to seek relief for CSIRO from the ASL cap.”

Exemption pathway

In evidence to Senate Estimates, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann clearly outlined the path Dr Marshall needs to navigate in order for the Government to consider an ASL exemption for CSIRO.

“The only way that something can get into the ERC (Expenditure Review Committee) room in terms of increased ASL is if I (Finance Minister) agree to provide an exemption or if the Prime Minister agrees to provide an exemption.

“Finance scrutinises any claims agencies make (for increased ASL) on my behalf and then provide advice on whether or not it is a legitimate and reasonable request that ought to be positively considered; or whether it is a ‘try on’ which can also happen from time to time.

Making the case for CSIRO

“If the CSIRO has a proposition that they can make lots of money externally as long as they employ more staff that they haven’t currently got available the first point of call would be obviously to work a proposal through with their Minister and for that process to be managed through the proper process.”

Earlier this month Staff Association representatives travelled to the Perth office of Minister Cormann and made direct representations regarding the impact of the cap on CSIRO jobs and research.

Formal dispute

Meanwhile a formal dispute claiming a breach of the CSIRO Enterprise Agreement – lodged by the Staff Association – is headed to the Fair Work Commission.

“We’ve taken this action because it’s clear that to get around the cap CSIRO is outsourcing work to contractors, consultants and labour hire firms that is clearly of an ongoing and indefinite nature; and in our opinion that’s a clear breach of the rules,” Mr Popovski said.

“Rather than adopting an ASL strategy that potentially breaches legal agreements, Dr Marshall should immediately seek relief from the Federal Government to ease staffing cap restrictions.”

Senate Estimates

At a separate hearing, Dr Marshall and senior executives faced some tough questions from federal representatives during CSIRO’s recent appearance at Senate Estimates.

The two big takeaways from the appearance was the admission that CSIRO had still not made a decision to apply to Government for an ASL cap exemption, despite being more than aware of the impact of restrictions for nearly twelve months ; and the disparaging remarks made by Dr Marshall about postdocs being “kids” that “cycle through (the organisation).”

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