CSIRO staff to launch strike action on Thursday morning

Hundreds of staff at the government's peak science agency are expected to walk off the job on Thursday morning, frustrated by a breakdown in negotiations and a belief their conditions are under attack.

The three-hour strike action by CSIRO staff comes after union members joined half-day strikes across the bureaucracy in June and threatened industrial action earlier in the year.

CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Sam Popovski​ said his members had endured years of funding cuts and were frustrated by ongoing negotiations with management.

"CSIRO staff have witnessed dramatic funding cuts; seen critical research abandoned and suffered a 20 per cent reduction to the workforce over a two-year period," he said.

"Now CSIRO management are proposing to slash conditions and workplace rights; in keeping with the federal government's unfair bargaining rules.

The current workplace agreement expired in August 2014 and scientists and researchers have not had a pay rise since mid-2013.


Mr Popovski said union members were concerned by the proposed reduction of the agreement from 94 clauses to 59. The size of the document would also be reduced from 103 pages to 46.

He said it was not surprising staff were willing to strike given they had witnessed one in five jobs cut from the agency in two years.

"Management's pay offer is poor and will take CSIRO staff backwards in real terms; 1.5 per cent per annum over 38 months," he said.  

"However when the delays are taken into account, the most generous calculation translates to an actual pay offer of no more than 1.1 per cent per annum, well below current inflation rates."

The strike action was announced on the same day the Australian Tax Office presented a 6 per cent pay increase to nearly 20,000 public servants, including a 3 per cent increase in the first year.

Last week, the agency confirmed it was pressing ahead with plans to trim its workforce despite reports the federal government is planning to restore funding to its information technology research agency.

The merger of CSIRO and National ICT Australia to create the Data61 agency was announced in February and formally endorsed in August, with up to 200 public servants expected to lose their jobs as a result.

Mr Popovski said the association was willing to negotiate with management although staff were committed to continuing industrial action unless concessions were made.

"The government's unworkable bargaining policy is causing chaos across the public sector and it's high time for the implementation of a new policy that treats workers with dignity and respect," he said.

A CSIRO spokesman said contingency plans were in place to ensure the vital work was continued with minimum disruption

"CSIRO will continue to negotiate with staff and bargaining representatives to deliver the best possible pay and conditions in the current environment," he said.