CSIRO staffing cap

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.

Confidential survey 

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.


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.

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Recent developments

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.

Jobs threat

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.

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