CSIRO to cut 300 more jobs, Data61 affected

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CSIRO to cut 300 more jobs, Data61 affected

'Realignment' for new strategy.

Staff at Australia's peak science and research organisation are facing yet another round of job cuts after CSIRO chief Larry Marshall today informed workers that more than 300 positions will be let go over the next two years.

It continues a years-long campaign of job cutting at the underfunded government agency, which has had an average of 220 people exit through redundancy every year for the past few years.

In an all-staff email today, Marshall said the organisation needed to refocus its priorities in line with its 2020 strategy - to increase commercialisation of its research and improve collaboration with the private sector.

He said to achieve this strategic realignment job losses would be inevitable, with 175 people each year over the next two years likely to depart the organisation. It needed to 'cut in order to grow', he said.

Reductions would occur in the CSIRO's oceans and atmosphere, land and water and manufacturing divisions as well as its much-vaunted Data61 business, Marshall said.

Other business units would also be impacted from "changes in capabilities" and "transfer of personnel".

"I am mindful that CSIRO has had significant changes over recent years," Marshall wrote.

"While I know that a smaller number of job losses in no way diminishes the pain of losing team members and friends, it is something that we must do to renew our business. The exact numbers are being worked through by business leaders, but I expect the numbers won’t be too different from our historical average."

He said the integration of Data61 into the CSIRO would have a "significantly" lower impact on headcount losses than was previously anticipated. The agency had last year said around 200 lob losses would likely result from the consolidation.

Data61 is a pillar of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plans to turn Australia into a hub for innovation. The PM recently promised $75 million to the business from July to help fund efforts in the areas of data analytics, new cyber security architectures, and better public-private collaboration.

Marshall today said Data61 was the "lynchpin" of the CSIRO's 2020 strategy, highlighting investment in areas like big data, health IT, start-ups, and mining technologies.

He did not detail which positions or how many in the agency would be subject to redundancy.

"Digital technology will disrupt every Australian industry and each part of our business must reinvent itself to help Australia respond to this global challenge," he wrote.

In December Turnbull pledged to partially restore the $112 million cut from the CSIRO in the 2014 budget through a $90 million injection as part of his $1 billion innovation plan.

The funding cut had forced the CSIRO to take a razor to its workforce over the past two years.

Marshall said this latest round of job cuts was "not a repeat of the major change we had several years ago'.

"It’s personally a tough message for me to share as I joined CSIRO with a growth objective and one which I don’t resile from," Marshall wrote.

"However I also know that we need to evolve our capability to meet global market changes in order to deliver on our mission for Australia."

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said the government and the CSIRO had their priorities "fundamentally wrong".

“The fact this gutting of the CSIRO is being modelled on Netflix and Silicon Valley shows how hollow and warped Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation rhetoric really is," Flood said in a statement.

"Taxpayer spending on science should be about improving Australian lives now and in the future, not moving CSIRO to a business model based on speculative investment rather than real science.”

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