As CSIRO continues with the gradual Covid return to site plan, a staff working group has warned against the potential for complacency creep and called on the organisation to develop resources to better support team leaders and site managers.
The return to workplaces working group – set up by the Staff Association to inform the union’s representation and advocacy on coronavirus response – raised several concerns which have been subsequently relayed to senior CSIRO management.
“CSIRO Executive’s response to the coronavirus has been comprehensive and strongly supported by employees to date,” Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski said.
“However, we’re just starting to see a few red flags that may warn of a slight relaxation of focus at a time when preparedness and planning is critical.”
Keeping it clean
CSIRO is expected to move into the second phase of the gradual return to site plan on 29 June resulting in greater number of employees and affiliates back on deck; while workplaces remain officially in ‘soft close’ and working from home arrangements continue.
Working group participants have identified some emerging issues with staff beginning to return to the workplace, based on personal experience and feedback from colleagues.
“Practical issues such as the provision of sanitiser and cleaning equipment in the workplace are obvious concerns. Reports to the working group indicate that some sites have a good approach to hygiene but the experience in others is patchy,” Mr Popovski said.
“There are questions of accountability. Is the provision of sanitiser and cleaning products the responsibility of CBIS, site management or others?”
While workplace numbers are expected to increase on average, day to day staffing levels may fluctuate as employees engage in a mix of onsite and remote working to comply with wider public health orders and distancing restrictions.
“As sites closed in late March, many staff ultimately relocated some office equipment and resources to the home. However, transporting bulky hardware and peripherals between the two locations once a week or every couple of days just isn’t practical,” Mr Popovski said.
“The working group has suggested that CSIRO start to develop policy and guidelines for the purchase of additional resources to better support staff that are likely to work regularly between both the home and workplace concurrently over coming months.”
More support for Team leaders
The working group has continued to press CSIRO to develop clearer guidelines and protocols for team leaders that identify best practice responses to possible scenarios in CSIRO workplaces as staff gradually return.
“There’s a reluctance on the part of CSIRO to develop clearer resources to support team leaders and site managers that’s difficult to understand,” Mr Popovski said.
“CSIRO’s preference for devolved responses puts team leaders and site managers under real pressure.
“The development of practical advice that canvasses possible scenarios will help ease the burden on line managers and the organisation has little excuse not to do everything it can to support these staff,” Mr Popovski said.
Maintaining vigilance in context of a wider easing restrictions may prove difficult, Mr Popovski said.
“CSIRO has been rightly praised by many staff for the quality of the coronavirus response to date. However senior management must be alive to the problems posed by complacency. “
“The Staff Association is not going to wait for senior management to develop clearer resources. Through the working group, we will put forward a proposal for best practice responses to possible scenarios to keep staff safe on site.” Mr Popovski said.