The Bureau of Meteorology has denied a new proposal moving forecasting staff to Melbourne and Brisbane would result in job losses, after the union sounded the alarm over the plans.
In an email sent to bureau staff on Monday afternoon by Bureau of Meteorology Director Andrew Johnson, staff were told local teams in each state and territory would be reduced to "customer focussed delivery teams," while forecast production and specialist technical roles would be moved to Melbourne and Brisbane.
The bureau has more than 200 forecasters, and it's believed half of them will be directly impacted by the news.
The main public sector union said the announcement came as a shock to forecasters, who were concerned about the impact the lack of local knowledge would have on the quality of forecasting.
"They are absolutely dismayed at the impact this is going to have on the critical forecasting services they provide to communities right around Australia, and of course the potential personal cost if there are job cuts or forced staff relocations," Community and Public Sector Union deputy secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said.
"From the scant information that’s available so far it appears to us that BOM will be establishing two forecasting sausage factories, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. We’re concerned that a relatively small number of forecasters in these two sites will be expected to churn out information for dozens of locations, inevitably downgrading quality."
Forecasters at the bureau include a team of aviation forecasters, whose roles have already been centralised to Melbourne and Brisbane.
The union believes 15-20 forecasting jobs in the ACT could be affected by the decision, which they say is motivated by cost rather than the quality of forecasting.
A spokesman for the bureau denied there would be job losses, but didn't explain what would happen to jobs around the country if work previously done elsewhere was only done in Melbourne and Brisbane.
"The Bureau of Meteorology is absolutely committed to providing localised and tailored meteorological expertise to each state and territory," the spokesman said.
"Claims of cost cutting and job losses are simply untrue and there are no plans to remove the Bureau's local presence from any state or territory."
The bureau explained some services would be moved under the proposal, and committed to consulting with staff, customers and stakeholders.
"A proposed new approach to improve services, which is being discussed in consultation with staff, customers and stakeholders, would involve general forecasting services moving to specialised hubs, allowing locally-based staff more time to provide specialist expertise to key state sectors such as emergency services, agriculture and energy. A further benefit would be the creation of new teams of experts focussed on providing advice on the key natural hazards which affect life and property," the spokesman said.