The application of the Government’s public sector staffing cap by the Executive Team has created an effective recruitment freeze at CSIRO; prompting fears that a subsequent increase in use of private contractors will undermine job security and working conditions.
CSIRO staffing cap challenged at Fair Work Commission
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has been asked to decide whether the application of the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap at CSIRO has resulted in the breach of the enterprise agreement and workplace laws.
Meanwhile, CSIRO Staff Association delegates and members in Newcastle have highlighted the impact of the cap during a meeting with Shadow Science Minister Brendan O’Connor.
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.
- It’s time for Larry Marshall to act – Poster
CSIRO Executive failed to seek staffing cap relief
CSIRO Chief Larry Marshall used a Senate Estimates appearance to admit that the organisation had yet to make an application to the Federal Government for relief from Average Staffing Level (ASL) restrictions.
In response to questions on whether CSIRO had sought an exemption Dr Marshall said that “we haven’t yet sought a formal exemption to that (ASL offset) rule but of course we’ve been discussing with the Department of Finance to get advice.”
Government shifts rhetoric on public sector staff cap and outlines pathway to exemption
The Federal Government has changed its tune on staffing cap restrictions in the federal public sector and outlined the process for departments and agencies to follow for consideration of an exemption.
In testimony before Senate Estimates, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann responded to specific questions about the impact of the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap at CSIRO; practically encouraging the organisation to apply for an exemption.
Pressure on Chief Executive and Board to act
Recently the Staff Association wrote to Chief Executive Larry Marshall (with the correspondence copied to all members of the CSIRO Board) calling for action stop the application of the Federal Government’s ASL cap and cease the outsourcing of work.
The union also formally notified a dispute under Clause 84 of the current CSIRO Enterprise Agreement and have subsequently sought a meeting to seek resolution; otherwise the matter may be referred to the Fair Work Commission.
Campaign against CSIRO staffing cap reaches Minister and Government
The campaign against the implementation of the Government’s staffing cap at CSIRO has reached the office of Science Minister Karen Andrews and other senior members of the Government while pressure continues to build on Chief Executive Larry Marshall.
Delegations led by Staff Association workplace representatives have targeted senior members of the Government to deliver a message about the impact of the Average Staffing Level (ASL) cap at both the local and national level.
The Staff Association is standing against the cap but we need your help to document the damage that is being, or is likely to be, done to research and work across CSIRO.
Please complete our short survey and tell us your staffing cap story.
Is the ASL cap driving increased outsourcing across CSIRO?
An interim examination of a survey charting the impact of the Average Staffing Level (ASL cap) has revealed many instances where CSIRO staff reported the increased use or consideration of external contractors as a means of avoiding the ASL cap.
Outside contractors and labour hire firms are being used across the federal public sector extensively. The Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is currently holding an inquiry into the impact of changes to service delivery models on the administration and running of Government programs.
The Staff Association has made a submission to the inquiry highlighting that the application of the ASL cap is driving a wave of outsourcing across CSIRO.
- CSIRO Staff Association submission – PDF
- Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee – Inquiry homepage
The Average Staffing Level (ASL) Cap was introduced by the Coalition Government in the 2015-16 Federal Budget to keep general government sector employment numbers at or below levels recorded in 2006-07.
One of the effects of the Coalition’s 2014 funding cuts – that led to the loss of 1 in 5 CSIRO jobs – was that the ASL cap did not start to make an impact until the organisation’s funding and staffing stabilized midway through 2018.
Following Consultative Council in December 2018, the Staff Association raised the application of the staffing cap with Dr Larry Marshall; arguing that CSIRO should not be subject to staffing caps or restrictions by Government or Government departments and that the organisation’s Chief Executive was solely empowered to make recruitment decisions.
The Staff Association has also raised the issue directly with Science Minister Karen Andrews in March 2019 prior to the Federal Election.
- CSIRO staff rally with Labor MPs over staffing cap claims – Newcastle Herald
- CSIRO staff seek Fair Work relief – InnovationAus
- CSIRO chief outlines plans to deal with staffing cap – Canberra Times
- CSIRO staff reveal struggles under APS staff cap – The Mandarin
- CSIRO jobs under review as public service staffing cap bites – Canberra Times
- Get an ABN, CSIRO tells budding scientists to get around staff cap – Canberra Times
- CSIRO staff ask chief executive to defy government over staffing levels – The Mandarin
- CSIRO staffing cap challenged at Fair Work Commission – November 2019
- Staff Association builds pressure on Marshall to act against CSIRO staffing cap – October 2019
- CSIRO Executive failed to seek staffing cap relief – October 2019
- Government shifts rhetoric on public sector staff cap and outlines pathway to exemption – October 2019
- Campaign against CSIRO staffing cap reaches Minister and Government – September 2019
- Get an ABN, CSIRO tells budding scientists to get around staff cap – September 2019
- Staffing cap survey to measure CSIRO science, jobs impact – July 2019
- Average Staffing Levels (email from CSIRO Executive to all staff) – July 2019
- Staff Association fights against staffing cap and recruitment freeze – July 2019
- Liberal National Coalition Federal Election response to CSIRO Staff – May 2019
- CSIRO staff ask chief executive to defy government over staffing levels – March 2019
- Staff Association questions CSIRO staffing cap – February 2019
- Larry Marshall letter to CSIRO Staff Association – December 2018
Last financial year, CSIRO exceeded the ASL cap by 110 positions. This was permitted by Government, because staffing levels were managed at a portfolio level by departments, not individual agencies; the Department of Industry (which CSIRO is considered part of) was below its overall ASL.
However, coming into 2019-20, the Federal Government seemingly changed its approach. CSIRO has been directed to immediately apply a hard ASL cap of 5,193 for the financial year; irrespective of the Department of Industry’s overall staffing level and not withstanding CSIRO’s own finances and the ability to fund positions – even via external earnings – above the ASL figure.
The Staff Association is gravely concerned that the Executive Team has in effect started a process to cut CSIRO jobs. Not only will less new positions be created, but many term and casual positions are likely not to be renewed in 2019-20. This will affect the ability of many projects to deliver and further increase the workloads of staff.
With the upcoming Annual Performance and Investment Review (APaIR) assessing all Business Units in September and October, the Staff Association is concerned that further job cuts may also occur, due to a funding triple threat of an increased Government efficiency dividend, pressure on external earnings and reallocation of resources from Business Units to challenges and the digital transformation program.
There are also fears – justified by the experience of employees in other parts of the public sector – that the rigid application of the staffing cap will result in the increased use of private contractors and outsourcing; which are not accounted for in measuring ASL and ultimately undermine permanent jobs and working conditions.
Standing up for CSIRO
The Staff Association is opposed to the staffing freeze at all levels and will continue to fight for CSIRO jobs. In addition making urgent representations to the Executive Team, the union will be talking to the community, including through the media, to highlight the immediate damage being done to CSIRO’s science and technology and Australia’s innovation future.
Concerned staff are encouraged to contact the Staff Association. Organisers and delegates are ready to support affected staff through individual and collective enforcement of workplace rights at CSIRO.