Bureau of Meteorology brings in consultants to survey staff over 'no' vote
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Bureau of Meteorology brings in consultants to survey staff over 'no' vote

The Bureau of Meteorology is using consultants to ask its public servants why they rejected a new workplace deal, after three "no" votes.

Despite the rejections, the bureau has turned down conciliation at the Fair Work Commission and asked an "independent facilitator" to meet workers and ask for their views.

The Bureau of Meteorology will use a consultant to ask staff why they rejected a new workplace deal.

The Bureau of Meteorology will use a consultant to ask staff why they rejected a new workplace deal.

Photo: Louie Douvis

Weather bureau boss Andrew Johnson told his rank-and-file in an email that senior leaders at the agency had considered "all future options" since most of its 1600 staff rejected a deal in December.

"Our judgement is that to maximise the likelihood of concluding an agreement with you, we really need to develop a deeper understanding of why the majority of you did not support the offer," he said.

Consultants will meet with staff in small groups after years of negotiations culminating in strikes and the three rejections of a new enterprise agreement.

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The bureau told Fairfax Media it wanted to obtain detailed feedback from staff to assist it in considering "the most effective next steps in the bargaining process".

"We believe this approach will maximise our ability to put together a mutually acceptable proposal," a spokesman said.

The main public sector union described the move as a new low for the agency, and said it was cynically making excuses and resorting to delaying tactics instead of resolving the stoush over pay and conditions.

Community and Public Sector Union acting deputy secretary David Hermolin said bureau workers and the CPSU had been clear with bosses about what needed to change for the dispute to end.

"If BOM doesn't believe us then perhaps they should look around at the numerous agencies that have secured new agreements," he said.

"The formula for success is simple: Listen to staff and their clear message that workplace rights and conditions must be retained, particularly around critical issues such as shift work and remote allowances."

The bureau had refused three offers of Fair Work conciliation, Mr Hermolin said.

"Management have chosen to stand in the rain and then hire a consultant to explain why their feet are wet.

"Conciliation has proved critical in resolving bargaining in a number of Commonwealth agencies, and is a relatively quick and cost-effective option, yet BOM has instead chosen to waste time and money on hiring another consultant.

"This obstructive approach from management explains why BOM staff have already waged an unprecedented campaign of strikes and other industrial action."

The bureau's latest move made further industrial action more likely, Mr Hermolin said.

Its spokesman said the bureau wanted an agreement that was affordable for the agency and complied with the government's workplace bargaining policy.

"The information and insights from this process will support our ongoing commitment to bargain in good faith with our workforce and their representatives."

Weather bureau staff last rejected a new deal amid claims the agency's decision to hold a vote close to Christmas was a cynical ploy.

A decisive 60 per cent "no" vote killed the agreement offered to staff, who went into their fourth Christmas without a pay rise after years of negotiations.

The result follows a resounding 69 per cent "no" in February 2016 and a 58 per cent rejection of an offer in May.

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No date has been set for the next vote and its timing depends on feedback from staff and negotiations, the bureau said.

The Bureau of Meteorology remains one of a few agencies still locked in industrial fights over new workplace deals, along with the Federal Court and the Department of Home Affairs.

Doug Dingwall

Doug Dingwall is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service and politics.

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