CSIRO workforce still 'cranky', despite proposed new deal on pay and conditions


The nation’s peak science organisation is reaching out to its 5000 workers in a bid to end nearly three years of industrial strife.

But it is unclear if CSIRO management will be able to satisfy its scientists, researchers, technicians and other staff with a proposed new deal on pay and conditions while staying within the confines of the Coalition government’s hardline public sector industrial polices.

The main staff union has warned that a pay offer which equates to less than 1 per cent per year might be a tough sell to a group of workers who resoundingly rejected a similar proposal in late 2016.

The CSIRO Staff Association says its “intense negotiations” with the organisation’s bosses have essentially concluded and the draft proposal is now to be put to a workforce consultation.

“The proposal is substantially better than the first proposal that staff rejected in October,” the association told its members last week.

“Approximately 90 per cent of the rights and conditions of the existing Enterprise Agreement would be retained.

“Seventy-nine issues have been agreed.

“Fifteen issues are not agreed, mainly due to the application of the government’s bargaining policy, which has stripped some rights and prevented enhancements to conditions.”

Pay could remain a serious stumbling block to a settlement, the association says of the offer of 6.5 per cent over the 39-month duration of the proposed agreement.

Most CSIRO staff have not had a general pay rise since 2013 and back-pay is banned by the government’s workplace policy so the association says the offer equals less than 1 per cent per year. 

“Staff Association representatives are not agreed,” the union’s analysis of the proposal states. 

“The pay rises are less than cost of living increases for staff and will result in CSIRO salaries being on average 10-20 per cent less than salaries in the university and research sectors.”

The CSIRO did not respond before deadline on Tuesday to a request for comment.

Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said it was difficult to predict how the organisation’s workers would react to the revised offer.

“There’s a lot of mixed feeling among staff about this, morale generally is very low at CSIRO and they’ve been strident about standing up for their working conditions throughout,” Dr Popovski said.

“So there’s different views, so I can’t give a prediction, but we’ll certainly find out in the coming days and weeks what will happen.”

There was unhappiness among CSIRO workers that went beyond the marathon row over pay and conditions, Dr Popovski said, including the deep cuts that had seen up to 1600 of their colleagues depart in recent years.

“In that environment where people are generally unhappy with their workplace, and to a large extent they see their conditions as the last straw as what they’re prepared to suffer,” he said.

“The crankiness is quite evident, people are certainly quite cranky about how long its taken for something that seems quite reasonable to come forward and they very much blame CSIRO management and the government.”

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