The new CSIRO Enterprise Agreement has been approved with overwhelming support, with a 97 per cent yes vote from the 61 per cent of eligible staff that participated in the ballot.
Reflecting on the result following a full year of campaigning, Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski paid tribute to union members and delegates.
“This result is a great outcome and secures CSIRO working conditions until the end of 2023. Thanks to all of our members and delegates, without all of you working together we would not have got to where we are today.”
Battle to bargain
While preparations for negotiations began last September, the process was threatened in October when Chief Executive Larry Marshall attempted a unilateral determination rather than a new enterprise agreement (EA).
The subsequent defeat of the determination proposal – with 61 per cent of staff voting to support enterprise bargaining – led to the commencement of formal negotiations in November 2019.
“It’s worth remembering we were confronted very early on and had to battle to get to the bargaining table. CSIRO staff were very committed to bargaining and rejected the unilateral determination,” Mr Popovski said.
As formal talks began, CSIRO Staff Association members participated in a national bargaining survey to identify important issues to focus on during negotiations.
“We really relied on our members for identifying priority issues; the things we wanted to improve, retain, protect and secure in our agreement for future years,” Mr Popovski said.
Members identified six key issues, including; a timely agreement (completed before November 2020), fair and reasonable pay and superannuation, no loss of conditions from the current agreement, to update and improve EA clauses where possible, protection of indefinite employment as CSIRO standard and equitable entitlement and access to parental leave.
Extensive consultation with members occurred throughout the bargaining process, with two series of membership meetings occurring in November 2019 and February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic shut down workplaces in March.
“We then shifted to new ways of working with Covid and adapted to holding our meetings virtually. We got lots of great feedback from members that would inform how we would negotiate on specific issues and position we would take overall,” Mr Popovski said.
As negotiations progressed and the CSIRO EA proposal took shape, more than five hundred Staff Association members participated in a May bargaining poll, with nearly four out of every five respondents directing union bargaining representatives to recommend the proposed agreement at a future all staff ballot.
Despite early progress tracking toward a June vote on the EA proposal, bargaining fell into a three-month delay as CSIRO sought approval from Australian Public Service Commission (APSC).
CSIRO negotiators had promised an iterative approach to APSC approval however the process stalled throughout May, June and most of July.
Approval from the APS Commissioner finally arrived in time for a final series of national meetings for union members in August ahead of the all staff vote.
With minimal change between the EA proposal endorsed by members in May and the version approved by the APSC, Staff Association bargaining representatives recommended a yes vote during the early September ballot. The proposal was endorsed by 97 per cent of staff, based on 61 per cent participation rate.
“This is a clear decision and a comprehensive result that will lead to our working conditions being protected in law in a new enterprise agreement until 2023,” Mr Popovski said.
“It’s phenomenally important that those pay and conditions that we now have cannot be changed and are going to be delivered for all staff – both current and new – that are employed at CSIRO.”
In addition to Staff Association members and delegates, Mr Popovski thanked his fellow members of the union bargaining team for their efforts during negotiations.
“A big thank you to Council and the Staff Association negotiating team; Sonia Grocke, Mark Green, Melissa Skidmore, Scott Wilkinson and Louise Jarman.”
“We all worked together as a team to support our members and get the outcome,” Mr Popovski said.
“If you’re not yet a Staff Association member you can see what happens when we work together and work collectively to get the bargaining outcome we have achieved.”
“We really urge you to join our community of staff here at CSIRO by becoming a union member,” Mr Popovski said.
Join the CSIRO Staff Association today with a quick and secure online membership application.