Discussions between senior management and Staff Association representatives to improve workplace consultation have started on a positive note, with an acknowledgement that the Federal Government’s policy encouraging increased employee engagement across the public sector, applies at CSIRO.
“Consultation is shaping up as a major issue in the upcoming Enterprise Agreement negotiations and CSIRO staff across the country are demanding real improvement in this area,” Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said.
In a recent bargaining survey, involving more that eight hundred participants, 92 per cent agreed that CSIRO staff should have access to meaningful consultation before decisions are made and with the capacity to influence outcomes.
Elsewhere, Science Minister Ed Husic has taken the extraordinary step of outlining specific consultative structures between the organisation and the minister’s office as part of a new Statement of Expectations issued to the CSIRO Board.
Last October the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) published updated advice on consultation in Commonwealth workplaces, in language that made clear the Federal Government’s views on the subject.
‘Genuine and effective consultation with employees and relevant unions is sound management practice. It fosters a positive and inclusive workplace culture, where the views of employees are considered and taken into account before decisions that substantially impact them are made or implemented,’ the advice states.
‘The Government expects Commonwealth agencies, as model employers, to put in place measures that support to the greatest extent practical genuine consultation about major change and other issues, before any final decision has been made by a decision maker, including the agency head.’
Ms Tonks said the initial response from CSIRO leadership on improving consultation was positive.
“CSIRO have accepted that the APSC advice applies and that consultation needs to improve. That’s a constructive first step.”
“However, it’s early days and changing the culture at CSIRO to embrace genuine and meaningful consultation will take time and require effort.”
“The Staff Association believes in a ground-up approach to staff engagement. Consultation structures need to be accessible to staff, not remote or disconnected,” Ms Tonks said.
Meanwhile, Science Minister Husic used the new Statement of Expectations to put CSIRO on notice to improve consultation with his own office, in uncompromising detail.
‘I expect CSIRO to work closely with my office and my department. I ask CSIRO keep me informed via six-monthly meetings with the Chair and (Chief Executive) on structural changes (including possible job losses or site closures) before these decisions are made.’
‘Further, I expect CSIRO to provide sufficient prior notice, to my office and department, of significant announcements and events that are likely to attract the attention of media or stakeholders, including consideration of my attendance or involvement,” the statement reads.