Campaigning begins on Thursday for a workplace ballot of thousands of researchers, scientists and other workers at the nation’s troubled peak science body the CSIRO.
The organisation’s management has improved the offer that was rejected last year but the staff association is urging a no-vote, saying the pay offer, of less than 1 per cent per year, is still not good enough.
The CSIRO was saying little publicly on Thursday and looks set to make its pitch for a yes-vote through staff meetings, video presentations and webinars.
Other workplace issues are expected to influence the outcome of the ballot in an organisation that has seen its workforce slashed by more than 20 per cent in the past three years and where morale and confidence in senior management is said to be low.
The CSIRO Staff Association says the deal on offer this time is better than the proposal defeated by 70 per cent in late 2016, the first defeat of an industrial ballot in CSIRO history, but not by much.
Pay is expected to be a tough sell for the organization’s bosses to a workforce that has not had a general wage increase since 2013.
The new proposal offers pay rises of 6.5 per cent over the 39 month lifetime of the agreement, in line with the Coalition government’s tough public sector bargaining policy.
But the staff association says that averaged out between 2013 and 2020, CSIRO workers will be less than 1 per cent better-off each year.
Conditions and entitlements are also likely to be sticking points, reflecting the experience across the Australian Public Service in the three years of industrial strife that has reigned in government workplaces since the Abbott government first introduced its hardline policy.
CSIRO staff association president Sam Popovski says the organisation’s workers stand to lose about 20 per cent of their “legal safeguards for workplace conditions…in return for a pay increase that translates to less than one per cent per annum over the bargaining round.”
“If adopted, this new agreement would weaken both staff consultation and workplace representation and result in greater job insecurity at CSIRO,” Mr Popovski told his colleagues on Thursday.
“It’s important to remember that these workplace cuts are being proposed in the context of low staff morale and the loss of more than 20 per cent of CSIRO jobs in the last three years.
“It is certain that the outcome will not only be felt by current staff, but by future generations – impacting on the way CSIRO does research into the future.”
In response to questions, a CSIRO spokesman issued a statement.
“CSIRO’s proposed Enterprise Agreement has been approved by the Australian Public Service Commissioner and staff will now be able to vote on the proposed Agreement through a ballot commencing on 16 June 2017,” the statement read.
“CSIRO is in the process of arranging the ballot and our first priority is to communicate with our staff about this process.’
Voting will take place between Jun 16 and June 22.