Swap-and-stay: The CSIRO will allow voluntary redundancy substitution.

Swap-and-stay: The CSIRO will allow voluntary redundancy substitution. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Like swapping lunches in the school playground, federal public servants will be able to duck Joe Hockey's battle axe by trading places with colleagues.

It is understood the CSIRO will leave open the option for staff to use voluntary redundancy substitution as it culls another 500 jobs - most  of these by the middle of next year - as it loses $111 million in funding over four years.

CSIRO Staff Association spokesman Anthony Keenan said it wanted voluntary redundancy substitution used as a frontline option in the restructuring process, but there could be a looming challenge.

"Last year, when they announced 200 redundancies, there were at least 80 people who took up the opportunity to substitute and stay, while another 80 replaced them," he said. "But now the cuts are starting to bite and I think in the coming months there will be a challenge, because it might be oversubscribed with people who want to stay."

Mr Keenan did not believe it would not be an option to accept a lower pay classification after swapping to remain employed at the CSIRO. 

Former senior public servant Paddy Gourley said some believe the swap-and-stay mechanism allowed performers to leave for greener pastures while letting the non-performers stay.

"But in other cases, the offer of redundancy is much more attractive," he said.  "Sometimes these same people often carry the history of the organisation and you lose a fair bit of corporate knowledge.

"I suppose [voluntary redundancy substitution] makes sense, provided the person who stays fits into the office." 

A CSIRO Staff Association fact sheet says the CSIRO will not refuse an officer’s election to be placed on the substitution register.

"Substitution will, however, only be approved where CSIRO determines that the skills of both individuals are a close match and there will be no adverse impact to ongoing work requirements," the fact sheet says. 

The CSIRO has released its annual directions statement, which says the organisation will attempt to work more with private industry, including further collaboration with small to medium enterprises, to increase revenue.

It will reduce staff travel, and conferences and meetings will only be held off-site in certain circumstances.

CSIRO is also consolidating its buildings as it reduces staff, who will receive $24.5 million in payouts as they leave in 2013-14. Anumber of those made redundant will be senior staff.

There are other ways CSIRO staff can avoid the axe. One was accepting a reduction in pay classification, although Mr Gourley said this was rare because it meant workers "lose face".

It was also difficult for lower-ranking employees to find jobs in areas further down the pay scale because those opportunities had often been "obliterated by technology". 

A third option was to go on the redeployment register, where staff wait for a position in another department or agency.