CSIRO bargaining has formally concluded with final approval of a new Enterprise Agreement (EA) by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). The conclusion of the bargaining process clears the way for the new deal to take effect on 16 November 2020 following the nominal expiry of the current EA.
While CSIRO employees are on track to receive the first annual pay increase of the new EA in May 2021 – delayed by six months due to the Federal Government’s coronavirus wage freeze – media reports have surfaced claiming that Chief Executive Larry Marshall is set to pocket a hefty bonus of close to $200,000.
Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski welcomed the FWC approval.
“This is a great outcome. The new agreement will be delivered on time and locks in CSIRO working conditions until 2023, protected by law.”
“The result is in no small part due to the solidarity displayed by Staff Association members throughout the bargaining process. This includes defeating an attempt by Dr Marshall and the CSIRO Executive last October to impose a unilateral determination rather than bargain for a new agreement.”
The rejection of the determination proposal – 61 per cent of CSIRO staff voted to support enterprise bargaining – resulted in the commencement of formal negotiations for a new EA in November 2019.
Staff Association members then identified six bargaining issues as the focus for negotiations. These included 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.
Bargaining continued throughout the first half of this year – progressing steadily despite severe disruption due to the summer bushfires and the start of the coronavirus pandemic – before an EA proposal was sent to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) for assessment.
At the time, CSIRO negotiators had promised an iterative approach to APSC approval however the assessment process stalled throughout May, June and most of July. The proposed EA was finally released for consideration in late August ahead of an all staff vote in September.
The poll revealed overwhelming support for the new EA, with a 97 per cent yes vote from the 61 per cent of CSIRO staff that participated in the ballot.
The first scheduled salary increase of the new EA will not be paid until May 2021 – rather than on commencement of the new EA later this month – as a result of the Federal Government’s six-month pay freeze, announced earlier this year in response to the financial impact of COVID-19.
After the amendment of the APSC bargaining policy in April to incorporate the deferral for any future federal public sector enterprise agreements, CSIRO Executive supported implementation of the pay freeze in negotiations despite opposition from the Staff Association.
Meanwhile, media reports have suggested that senior public sector executives will share more than $12.8 million in performance bonuses while the vast majority of workers suffer the pay freeze.
The Nine Fairfax analysis of annual reports shows there were 27 executives of federal government entities – including CSIRO – who received more than $100,000 on top of their fixed pay.
According to the report, Dr Marshall is set to receive a bonus payment of $196,313 – more than 25 per cent of his reported salary of $772,059 – for the financial year ending 30 June 2020.
Members of the Staff Association bargaining team have reflected on the outcome of the bargaining process and the often-challenging negotiations for a new EA.
“The show of solidarity from CSIRO staff to defeat the determination vote set the tone early on,” Staff Association President Sonia Grocke said.
“The result sent a clear message to CSIRO management that staff want to retain an Enterprise Bargaining process to protect working conditions.”
Staff Association Deputy President Melissa Skidmore agreed the determination outcome was influential.
“Defeating the determination and subsequently delivering an agreement with no loss of conditions that is protected by law until 2023 is a definite highlight.”
“However despite our early meetings spent vigorously debating if the Australian Government Employment Bargaining framework should be applied to CSIRO; we had to bargain under the APSC rules which meant no ability to meaningfully progress our position on pay and superannuation to achieve the improvements Staff Association members deserve,” Dr Skidmore said.
Staff Association Deputy President Mark Green concurred.
“There was growing awareness throughout the bargaining process that the application of the third-party oversight by the APSC was constraining open and fair negotiations with management on a range of issues.”
“However, working with our Staff Association team to get the best outcome possible despite these restrictions is a real achievement,” Dr Green said.
Lead Organiser Louise Jarman paid tribute to the engagement of Staff Association members to support the union negotiating team.
“Our members were very clear throughout; this was to be a timely negotiation, no losses to be incurred and a number of gains ensued. When the bargaining team required further direction, the consultation process with the membership was swift and resourceful,” Ms Jarman said.
The importance of member input was echoed by Staff Association Treasurer Scott Wilkinson.
“Success in the bargaining room was built on the strong contribution of the wider membership.”
“The involvement of members and delegates helped Staff Association bargaining representatives to provide evidence and justify support for claims during negotiations for a number of clauses, and ultimately win outcomes,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“The final approval of the new EA is a fantastic way to end what’s been a difficult year. Securing CSIRO pay and conditions will be a massive benefit for current, new and future staff employed by CSIRO,” Mr Popovski said.
“If you’re not yet a part of the Staff Association then we urge you to join our community of staff at CSIRO by becoming a union member.”
Join the CSIRO Staff Association today with a quick and secure online membership application.