The union representing staff at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has described the prospect of further job losses of wine researchers in Adelaide as reminiscent of “the bad old days” of record cuts under the current Coalition Government, which saw one in five CSIRO staff lose their jobs.
Up to twelve CSIRO permanent positions located at Adelaide’s Waite campus – part of a joint research agreement with government-funded statutory authority Wine Australia – are set to be chopped; which follows the recent loss of an additional 14 contract positions in the same research team.
The cuts will impact CSIRO wine science in berry development, grapevine function, grapevine physiology, rootstock breeding and scion breeding.
“It’s difficult to understand why CSIRO can’t save these jobs, especially considering the funding lifeline the organisation received as recently as December 2020,” said CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) South Australian Regional Secretary Liz Temple described the prospect of more CSIRO cuts under the Coalition Government as a return to “the bad old days.”
“Under the current government that Scott Morrison leads and now seeks re-election, more than twenty per cent of CSIRO jobs were lost due to funding cuts delivered by the Liberal and National parties. These latest cuts are bad news for young science graduates and South Australia,” Ms Temple said.
In formal advice provided to the Staff Association, CSIRO management claimed the plan to cut wine research as a “difficult decision”.
“Wine Australia has a new Director and Board and they have updated their investment strategy based on industry consultation. The wine industry is under pressure, especially due to the China tariff while at the same time industry levies are down and the amount of money that Wine Australia will co-invest with CSIRO was set to decrease.”
In response, research partner Wine Australia noted “a very different operating environment now for both Wine Australia and CSIRO compared to our previous negotiations in 2017, which has impacted overall investments.”
The statutory authority stated that the new bilateral agreement with CSIRO would see funding “reduced and the focus on those areas for which (the organisation) has unique expertise – grapevine breeding… however, other areas of CSIRO capability outside of the new bilateral agreement could be procured through a competitive process.”
Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks urged CSIRO and Wine Australia to resume negotiations to save research jobs.
“CSIRO’s research helps maintain Australia’s competitive advantage in a keenly contested global market. Now is not the time to reduce our wine science research effort.”
CPSU’s Liz Temple called on the Federal Government to take action.
“Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government should step up and support CSIRO’s research in Adelaide and back our home-grown industry to thrive amid international challenges, rather than letting Australian wine science wither on the vine.”
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