CSIRO staff advised to brace for 500 more job cuts

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CSIRO staff advised to brace for 500 more job cuts

More reductions in funding.

Employees at Australia’s peak science and research organisation, CSIRO, have been told another 500 workers will lose their jobs as a result of a funding decrease in the federal budget.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will lose $111.4 million over the next four years, starting with a $27 million reduction from next year.

The agency will also be affected by a separate “efficiency dividend” cut equivalent to $3.4 million over the forward estimates.

The budget cuts add to the strain already testing the resolve of the CSIRO workforce. 

The agency has been attempting to cut costs following an internal review into its operations, which has so far seen 400 positions culled over the past nine months.

CSIRO's cost-cutting endeavour is taking place alongside the Government’s public service hiring freeze, which is expected to affect up to 600 non-ongoing and contract workers whose contracts will not be reinstated when they come up for renewal.

Additionally, last month the CSIRO confirmed a further 320 positions, a mixture of permanent and contract staff, would be in the firing line before the end of the calendar year.

Less than 24 hours after federal Treasurer Joe Hockey unveiled the funding cuts in his federal budget on Tuesday night, CSIRO chief Megan Clark emailed staff to warn another 500 jobs would likely now be lost. 

Clark warned of “painful days” ahead for scientists and researchers as the agency prepares to cull 420 of the 500 jobs by the middle of next year, and another 80 full-time positions before June 2018.

The CSIRO’s average staffing levels are expected to drop to 5034 for 2014-15, compared to 5523 in 2013-14, and 5715 in 2012-13.

As a result of the funding cuts, the CSIRO will also immediately reduce investment in selected areas of research by $27.5 million over this year and next.

Fields to be affected include radio astronomy science (such as the Square Kilometre Array project), neurosciences and clinical medicine, urban water, and sensor development research. 

Clark is expected to reveal more detail on the research cuts in the CSIRO’s annual direction statement on Friday.

She told staff the Government’s funding contribution only formed part of CSIRO’s overall budget, which combined with external co-investment and consulting income was now expected to reach $405 million in 2013-14 - almost 4 percent less than 2012-13. 

Acting Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) Michael Borgas said the Government’s funding cuts were “short-sighted and destructive”. 

“These cuts to public funding of CSIRO could not come at a worse time,” Borgas said in a statement.

“These budget cuts will mean more science workers will lose their jobs and more important research will not be done. CSIRO management might be faced with terrible prospect of getting out of some areas of research altogether.”

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