CSIRO staff angry at execs' failure to secure funding

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CSIRO staff angry at execs' failure to secure funding

Morale low after restructure.

An internal report into staff morale at Australia’s peak science and research body has revealed the CSIRO’s employees are frustrated at the organisation’s inability to secure adequate funding from the Government.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation earlier this year fell victim to a $115 million cut in funding over four years as part of the Government’s federal budget.

The organisation has been forced to take the razor to its workforce as a result, with up to 800 jobs in the firing line in the 2014-15 year, and another 80 expected to go in 2015-16.

The CSIRO had already been attempting to cut costs following an internal review into its operations, which resulted in 477 workers being let go over the last 12 months.

Additionally, up to 600 non-ongoing and contract workers will also lose their jobs as a result of the federal government’s public sector hiring freeze, with contracts not to be reinstated when they come up for renewal.

The results of an internal survey of morale published [pdf] today by the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has revealed the restructuring has taken its toll on the organisation’s staff, suggesting the workforce has little confidence in the CSIRO’s senior management.

Two thirds of the 1239 surveyed staff - most of whom had worked for the CSIRO for at least six years - believed the organisation’s leaders lacked a clear vision for the CSIRO’s future and were incapable of clearly communicating a direction.

Most also conveyed a “strong sense of disappointment” with the CSIRO’s efforts when it comes to effectively working with external stakeholders - particular Government - to secure funding.

“The personal impact of the changes were generally appraised negatively, with the majority of respondents feeling challenged, threatened and uncertain about the current environment in CSIRO,” the report on the survey revealed.

“There was a decline in survey ratings compared to most benchmarks. A large proportion of staff were dissatisfied with the level of strategic clarity, consultation and transparency in the current environment.”

Research and science staff were the largest group to report feeling threatened and uncertain about changes taking place within the organisation.

The Community and Public Sector Union yesterday revealed 75 researchers in digital productivity, agriculture and manufacturing would be let go as part of the already-announced jobs reduction.

But despite a current environment of uncertainty, the majority of survey respondents said they remain committed to the goals and objectives of the organisation, and are willing to work beyond what was required to ensure the success of the CSIRO.

However, staff weren’t so keen to recommend working at the CSIRO - only just over half of the 1239 surveyed staff (which equates to about a quarter of the CSIRO's 5000-strong workforce) said they would endorse the organisation as a good place to work.

To address the feeling of uncertainty particularly among science and research staff, the CSIRO said it would ensure senior leaders provided such staff with information on how their work would be impacted.

To combat the “low morale and uncertainty” repeatedly raised by survey respondents, the CSIRO said it would push senior leaders to open up communication and keep “surprises to a minimum”.

It also said it would provide opportunities for staff to voice opinions and receive acknowledgement of their experiences to increase clarity about the “strategic aspects” of the changes.

“Organisational transformation, whether undertaken in response to shifting priorities or a difficult economic climate, is not without its challenges," the survey report stated.

"A high level of uncertainty can be unnerving and lead to decreased morale, and in consideration of the atypical state of the operating environment, the survey findings indicate that this has been the experience of CSIRO staff at this point in time."

The CSIRO has been contacted for comment.

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