In response to advocacy from Staff Association representatives, management have confirmed that CSIRO staff will be able to use paid time to obtain a Covid vaccination, rather than being forced to access their own leave entitlements.
Meanwhile, a recent outbreak of coronavirus in Brisbane resulted in a temporary tightening of restrictions, all CSIRO staff in the city and metropolitan area strongly encouraged to work from home for a short period.
“The safety and wellbeing of our members is the union’s top priority,” Acting Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said. “Members who are located in Brisbane and need advice or assistance are encouraged to make contact with your organiser or local delegate.”
While workforce plans for CSIRO staff to access the vaccination program – for most not expected until Phase 2b with the balance of the Australian adult population – are still in development; recent discussions between the Staff Association and Situation Management Team (SMT) had canvassed the issue of leave and paid time.
In response to Staff Association questions concerning the provision of paid time to staff for the purposes of securing a vaccination, earlier advice from the SMT indicated that CSIRO staff would be expected to use personal leave to receive the vaccine, if an appointment couldn’t be arranged outside working hours.
However, a recent circular from the Australian Public Service Commission (ASPC) states that ‘agencies should provide the greatest support possible to assist employees in receiving a COVID-19 vaccination’ and ‘appropriate support measures that may include paid time to receive vaccinations (including) reasonable travel time and reasonable travel expenses’ where significant travel is required to access a vaccination site.
Soon after Staff Association representatives relayed the APSC position, the SMT updated advice to CSIRO staff stating that ‘consistent with ensuring our people are supported as much as possible, staff members will not be required to take leave, including reasonable travel time, to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.’
“In addition to the health and safety of employees, the second priority for the union in terms of CSIRO’s workforce response to Covid is to minimise any financial disadvantage to staff,” Ms Tonks said.
“CSIRO’s decision to change tack and offer paid time for staff to access vaccinations when they become available is welcome and more in keeping with the high-quality organisational response that has been evident throughout the pandemic.”
While the SMT has identified CSIRO staff working at the quarantine facility in Howard Springs and the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness as vaccination priorities in Phase 1a or 1b, most employees are not expected to access the vaccination program until Phase 2b, along with the balance of the Australian adult population.
Detailed plans for the implementation of the Government’s vaccine roadmap remain in development, however the SMT have confirmed that Workplace Health and Safety Committees and Health and Safety representatives will be involved in developing policies and processes.
Elsewhere the Agency of the Future (AOTF) initiative, successor of the New Ways of Working project, is now open for a second round of staff input following a similar crowdsourcing effort conducted last October.
Repeatedly characterised by Chief Executive Larry Marshall as the ‘north star’ for CSIRO – a confusing navigational metaphor for a science organisation located in the southern hemisphere – AOTF is perhaps more accurately described as a post-Covid extension of the corporate plan until 2030.
‘AOTF will create a clear ambition for our future organisation, to guide choices and communicate intentions for our leaders, our people and stakeholders… we plan to have a short and meaningful document for us all to refer to,’ internal CSIRO documents state.
The latest call for employee contributions opened 22 March, with the most popular ideas to be shared with the CSIRO Leadership Team and Board in April, ahead of a wider report back to staff.