Large scale cuts to CSIRO’s energy unit are “unwise and damaging”, with fears the upcoming federal budget will further impair the country’s science research agency, according to its staff association.
The cutting of 40 jobs from CSIRO’s energy business unit was first floated in February, but later put on hold due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But the agency confirmed last week it would go ahead with the redundancies, with energy sites in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales impacted.
The cuts will hit CSIRO’s research on upstream oil and gas, its low emissions technology program and post-combustion CO2 capture. Roles to be made redundant include research scientists, research engineers, research project technical services and research management.
An estimated 13 jobs are to go from the Kensington site in Western Australia, 15 from Clayton in Victoria, and nine from Newcastle and North Ryde in New South Wales.
CSIRO staff association secretary Sam Popovski labelled them “unwise and damaging”.
“The recent King review indicates that Australia’s energy policy remains far from settled and diminishing CSIRO’s specialist capabilities in this area harms government decision-making and future innovation,” Mr Popovski said.
Mr Popovski said some staff members had been provided only 24 hours of their need to attend a meeting informing them their position would likely be made redundant. The staff association is now pushing for an extended notification and consultation period for these jobs.
“The staff association is committed to providing any affected members personal advice and support, and the union will work hard to minimise involuntary job losses and retain staff through redeployment and voluntary redundancy substitution,” he said.
Research has found that the total job numbers at CSIRO contracted by 10 per cent in the last financial year, with specified term employees, post-doctorates and casual staff hit the hardest. This has been the result of the application of the Average Staffing Level limit at the agency, Mr Popovski said.
The employee headcount at CSIRO as of the end of May was 5,336, a decrease of 579 jobs or 10 per cent from 1 July 2019. There are fears that the upcoming federal budget will lead to further job losses at CSIRO.
“The employment forecast looks bleak with senior CSIRO executives predicting a steep fall in external earnings due to the looming recession amid private concerns that government austerity measures may threaten appropriation funding,” Mr Popovski said.
The staff association has called on CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall to speak out against the funding cuts and job losses.
“Job losses of any sort in CSIRO are bad news. Dr Marshall needs to do more to protect CSIRO jobs and start outlining the case for increased public funding,” Mr Popovski said.
“CSIRO is on track to lose more than 500 jobs by 1 July and that does not include these latest cuts in energy.”
“There are concerning reports that more jobs could be under threat. There are growing concerns that the October federal budget may feature spending cuts and Dr Marshall and the board must ensure that the case for CSIRO public funding is heard loud and clear over coming months”
The Opposition has also hit out at the news of further job losses at the country’s peak science agency, with shadow industry minister Brendan O’Connor saying they are “deeply concerning” and part of the government’s “anti-science agenda”.
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