Staff Association representatives are in regular contact with CSIRO Executives responsible for the organisation’s coronavirus (COVID-19) workforce response.
We believe that the safety of CSIRO staff should remain paramount and that financial disadvantage should be minimised for all employees – permanent, fixed-term, casual, contractor or labour-hire – as a direct result of management decisions or directions in response to COVID-19.
Comprehensive consultation with staff and their representatives must occur before decisions are made in relation to work conducted in CSIRO workplaces; as part of a gradual return of employees to physical work locations.
The Staff Association has also sought assurances from CSIRO on implementing stricter social distancing protocols at CSIRO workplaces, the implementation of control measures including modified workplace layout, increased cleaning and hygiene as well as measures to support staff with pre-existing medical conditions and susceptibility to illness.
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CSIRO advice (12 May 2020) states that all staff that can work from home – to support social distancing – should continue to work remotely. The Staff Association endorses this approach; CSIRO staff who can work from home and have the necessary resources, should do so.
However, CSIRO have also indicated plans to slowly and gradually increase the density of employees working onsite in keeping with Federal Government and medical advice.
CSIRO’s new and updated working from home procedure ‘outlines the mandatory requirements for staff members and CSIRO affiliates who intend to work from home.’
‘Working from home is an option supported at CSIRO that may be accessed by staff members and CSIRO affiliates depending on the nature of their role. It is expected that staff will work at a CSIRO location, as and when required or agreed,’ the procedure states.
The Staff Association is committed to ensuring every CSIRO worker is treated fairly – if staff have a preference and can conduct work from home, approval should always be granted by CSIRO management.
Following advocacy from the Staff Association, CSIRO announced a work from home resource package including a centralised ordering platform with national delivery.
From September 2020, staff were able to order a range of kit and equipment to support working from home including a laptop, keyboard, mouse, headset, webcam and USB hub, height adjustable desk, an ergonomic chair and a computer monitor.
CSIRO has outlined a gradual return to work process consisting of four phases to occur over several months. CSIRO Executive advised (3 September 2020) that return to site arrangements will be staggered by location.
As of Tuesday 20 July 2021, all CSIRO sites in Queensland, regional NSW, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania and Western Australia are at Phase 4.
New South Wales – Metropolitan Sydney sites (Everleigh, Marsfield, Lindfield, Lucas Heights, North Ryde and UNSW Kensington) move to Phase 1 effective 26 June until further notice. Newcastle and regional NSW sites remain at Phase 4.
Victoria – All Victorian sites move to Phase 2 from 28 July until otherwise notified.
South Australia – As of Wednesday 28 July, all SA sites move to Phase 2 until further notice.
The Staff Association believes the safety and wellbeing of staff remains critically important and that comprehensive consultation should occur before return to work decisions are made in relation to work conducted in all CSIRO workplaces.
The range of return to work issues that are important to Staff Association members include:
Following an increase in new cases in Sydney, Darwin, Perth and Brisbane; CSIRO has advised staff (28 June 2021) to reconsider domestic (interstate) work-related travel.
The advice states that domestic travel for work is limited to essential purposes only requires approval from line managers prior to booking. ‘Any decision to travel should also consider the very real possibility that changes to government border restrictions may result in the traveller needing to quarantine or isolate for an extended period.’
The Staff Association is establishing a ‘Return to workplaces’ working group of members and delegates to provide timely and proactive advice to Staff Association officials and to better represent issues and concerns when making representations to CSIRO management.
The development of Covid-safe plans for specific CSIRO workplaces comes after sustained advocacy by the Staff Association working group. Specific measures and plans are being developed and implemented for each site to reflect state/territory COVID laws, directions, orders as well as CSIRO procedures and safety risks at a local level.
CSIRO has also indicated that long-term changes to work practices are already under consideration as part of the Business Transition Program (BTP).
This may include an ‘increase in blended working from home and the office arrangements, significantly reduced travel and an increase in the adoption of digital tools to enable collaboration’ on a permanent basis.
BTP have released a strategy outline dubbed New Ways of Working and will design – in partnership with the Staff Association – a consultation process to involve the workforce on the changes.
CSIRO has updated its leave provisions for staff in response to the COVID-19 crisis. These provisions were negotiated and are agreed with the Staff Association. Please see the new leave provisions on myCSIRO and contact the Staff Association if you require support or representation.
The most important thing to emphasise is that CSIRO staff should be working from home if work from home is possible. If you are unable to work from home, the following leave arrangements will apply.
If you are a casual officer CSIRO will pay your normal average salary – including loading – if you are required to self-isolate, are sick or caring for a sick family or household member.
In you are a labour hire worker or contractor, these leave arrangements do not apply to you directly. However, please contact the Staff Association for support and representation.
Paid Leave for a Specified Purpose ‘allow(s) staff to be absent from work for… special circumstances that are not covered by other leave provisions.’
‘Paid Leave for Specified Purposes is intended to allow members of staff to be absent from work for specific purposes which are considered to be beneficial to the career development of the staff member concerned, to CSIRO and/or to the Commonwealth.’
‘There is no minimum amount of Leave With Pay for Specified Purposes that can be taken at any one time’ and while there is an upper limit for the secondments, emergency service activities and other specified examples, ‘maximum periods are not fixed for the other categories of Leave With Pay for Specified Purposes,’ specifically the category referred to as ‘other special circumstances.’
‘Staff seeking leave for specific purposes should forward their request with all relevant details, together with a Leave Application form, through their supervisor to their local Human Resources staff who will seek approval.’
A copy of the policy can be found in the Human Resources (HR) section of the CSIRO intranet. Staff with questions about applying for this form of leave should contact HR.
As of 16 March, CSIRO suspended all international travel until further notice. On 24 March 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Commonwealth Government will implement a ‘do not travel’ ban on Australians travelling overseas.
All international arrivals are required to self-isolate upon entry to Australia for a minimum 14 days.
On site visitors are restricted and staff are encouraged to conduct meetings via video conference or phone hook-up.
Given the significant reduction in staff working on sites, CSIRO advises that ‘the availability of first aid officers and fire wardens may be limited… because of this we have reverted to ‘after hours’ mode across all CSIRO sites.’ Staff are to follow local instructions for after-hours protocol and to evacuate when required in the event of an emergency.
Although Staff Association access to sites is not legally prohibited, our organisers will be providing member support and representation activities by video and phone conference until further notice.
CSIRO Executive anticipate that visitor centres located at Parkes and Narrabri will open in early July to coincide with NSW school holidays.
No date has yet been set for the reopening at of the Discovery Centre at the Black Mountain site in Canberra.
From 18 May 2020, fieldwork that needs to proceed may also recommence, providing it is carried out in line with any travel restrictions, and an updated HSE risk assessment is in place that addresses COVID-19 and other requirements.