Satisfaction ratings for employees that work exclusively at CSIRO workplaces have continued to slide, compared to the views of colleagues only working from home, according to the results of a recent staff survey.
Meanwhile, changes to the Federal Government’s coronavirus vaccination program have prompted calls for funding to boost local vaccine manufacturing capacity.
The March 2021 Pulse survey provided a breakdown by working arrangements; charting the responses of staff now working from home, those working under hybrid (mix of home and onsite) arrangements and employees located in the workplace only.
While those employees working only from home or via hybrid arrangements recorded increased or steady satisfaction results, ratings decreased across the board for those CSIRO staff working onsite all the time; notably in areas of team connection, ability to connect with colleagues, team trust, supporting staff, respect and the provision of information.
“While working from home remains popular and a key feature of CSIRO’s covid workforce response, we must focus on staff working on site,” Acting CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said.
“We’re receiving anecdotal evidence that staff who are working onsite are often carrying an extra load – as an area custodian, health and safety representative, first aid officer or fire warden – sometimes juggling multiple roles as there’s not enough staff in the workplace to share out the responsibilities.
“That’s not sustainable in the long run and it will be up to site managers and business unit leadership to work with staff and union representatives to develop more equitable arrangements,” Ms Tonks said.
Resolving ‘mixed messages about working in a hybrid environment’ was identified as a key focus area in the survey report.
Meanwhile the Federal Government’s vaccine program suffered a setback with changes to medical advice for use of AstraZeneca vaccine locally manufactured by CSL, after the treatment was linked to blood clotting.
With the advice now recommending the Pfizer mRNA vaccine for Australians under the age of fifty, the nation now faces a shortage with additional does of Pfizer not expected to arrive before October at the earliest.
In an email to CSIRO staff, Executive Director Katherine Paroz acknowledged “some changes to the recommendations for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in certain age groups.”
“CSIRO is following the public health advice from the Federal Government which states that the COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary, universal and free. Participation in the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is voluntary for CSIRO staff and affiliates.
“We encourage you to participate in the vaccine roll-out program and play your part by protecting yourself, your colleagues, our partners and the community.
“Please consult with your doctor if you have any concerns, they will provide you with professional advice on the vaccines and considerations for your individual circumstances,” Ms Paroz said.
The stalled progress of the vaccination rollout reignited calls for Australia to develop local manufacturing capacity for mRNA vaccines.
Earlier in February, the Australian Academy of Science used a pre-budget submission to the Federal Government, calling for investment to develop local capacity to manufacture mRNA vaccines.
‘Without the ability to produce new vaccines onshore, Australia and the region remain vulnerable to supply shocks… developing this capability will allow us to build resilience to future pandemics and potential biosecurity situations that may require us to have the onshore capacity to mass produce vaccines,’ the submission states.
There is growing speculation that the Government will use next week’s Federal Budget to announce increased funding for vaccine manufacturing, with Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming that talks have started with individual firms, including CSL, to develop a business case.