CSIRO has announced the creation of a new Environment Business Unit – the largest in the organisation – by combining the workforces of both Land and Water and Oceans and Atmosphere.
In an email to staff, CSIRO Executive Director Peter Mayfield said the move would “combine our capabilities in marine, atmospheric, water and terrestrial environment disciplines, as well as significant social and economic research capability.”
However, the decision-making process employed by senior CSIRO leadership has attracted some criticism, with the level of staff consultation described as inadequate.
“Regardless of the merits of this decision, the fact is that staff and their representatives have not been consulted prior to the announcement of major workforce change. That’s not good enough,” CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said.
Current OA Director Dan Metcalf – who will take the reins at Environment – said “the formation of a new BU is not driven by a need to reduce costs, nor staff numbers, nor any external threat” and described the decision as “a fantastic opportunity.”
Ms Tonks said the new BU would be built on strong foundations.
“This type of move is only possible due to the hard work and distinguished track record of researchers and support workers in both OA and LW.”
“This decision is not about job losses or loss of science capability but moving towards a single integrated strategy and delivery… there are very few staff whose roles are potentially impacted,” Dr Mayfield said.
Ms Tonks said the long-term impact on employment remained unclear.
“The Staff Association will assist any members immediately affected by this decision, but the real jobs impact will play out over the next twelve months, following the implementation of the new BU strategy.
“We have to wait and see whether these changes will actually pass the real test; that is delivering the increased employment necessary to meet growing research demand,” Ms Tonks said.
While the decision to combine LW and OA – the subject of internal speculation for several years – didn’t register shockwaves, the announcement blindsided most staff.
Even Dr Metcalf admitted that “the decision and its timeline was as much a surprise to me a couple of weeks ago as it will (now) be to you.”
The decision to keep staff in the dark prior to the announcement appeared deliberate, with Dr Mayfield admitting that the “creation of the Environment BU has been undertaken in consultation with the Board and the Executive Team.”
“This announcement, after-the-fact, represents a missed opportunity from CSIRO Executive to meaningfully consult with staff – prior to the decision being made – and achieve genuine engagement,” Ms Tonks said.
Instead, Dr Metcalf said that affected staff are being invited to supply “input and comment and suggestions” as part of “broad consultation” until 21 October “before (we) review all of the feedback and communicate back to you what our response will be.”
Dr Metcalf said that staff feedback would be sought via a number of mechanisms including the establishment of an internal website, online form and dedicated email address, as well as by “identifying opportunities to discuss the transition in Program meetings, ‘town hall’ type meetings and more casual on-site engagements.”
“This type of process – running for a mere three and a half weeks after the decision’s already been made – must be described as consultation in name only. It’s not meaningful,” Ms Tonks said.
“We’re currently asking CSIRO staff about the workplace issues they want covered in the upcoming enterprise bargaining round and there’s a reason why respect at work – including consultation – is a key theme of the survey.”
“Senior CSIRO Executives should consider taking a different approach to staff engagement and embrace genuine consultative processes,” Ms Tonks said.
The Staff Association will be conducting meetings with LW and OA staff in coming weeks to collect views and concerns ahead of the 21 October deadline. Union representatives will then meet with CSIRO Executives and seek more information, especially on the projected impact on jobs.
All CSIRO staff – not just Staff Association members – are encouraged to complete our Enterprise Bargaining survey which is open until the end of the month.
OA or LW staff that require advice or assistance should email [email protected] or speak to a delegate or organiser.
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