CSIRO Staff Association finally acknowledges bullying

Posted on December 17, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The CSIRO Staff Association have acknowledged the existence of bullying within CSIRO on their website (see article below). This is a good start…

We would like to point out however that the evidence is far more than anecdotal.  IT EXISTS!

Comcare has issued an organisation-wide Improvement Notice over the matter which according to reliable sources has still not been posted up on noticeboards around the CSIRO.

It’s just a pity that it has taken exposure through media coverage for the CSIRO Staff Association to take this matter seriously.  They have, after all, known about this issue for years, as evidenced in their  statement of claims lodged as a part of past Enterprise Bargaining processes, involvement in the Psychological Health and Well-being Committee initiative which received an overwhelming amount of material on the issue and through consultative committee meetings held with CSIRO’s Executive Management Team.

There are also, of course the members, who have complained of bullying to their workplace delegates and staff association officials over the years.

We trust that the initiative of the CSIRO Staff Association will be in the interest of its members and not an attempt at smoothing over the problem in partnership with CSIRO management.

The Staff Association statement and like are posted below:


Given recent media coverage of bullying and harassment in CSIRO, a number of members have contacted the Staff Association seeking clarity on this complex topic.

 Serious issue

The effects of bullying and harassment can be profound and the damage lasting – not only to the people directly involved – but to other employees and professional reputations.

These interpersonal disputes are often tricky, messy and difficult to define, let alone resolve.

So what is the Staff Association’s approach to bullying and harassment complaints in CSIRO?

Improving workplace culture

One of our first responsibilities is to help employees work collectively to make their workplaces safer. Like many unions, the Staff Association has a long history of advocacy when it comes to workplace safety.

We support workplace policy and programs that encourage greater awareness and reporting of bullying and harassment. The Staff Association also seeks to educate employees in both recognising unacceptable behaviour and constructing workable solutions.

However the issue of bullying and harassment presents a challenge to the collective approach due to the interpersonal and often individual nature of disputes.

Supporting people

We are totally committed to supporting members on a case-by-case basis. Staff Association organisers and delegates regularly provide individual assistance to our members who have been bullied or harassed. We also provide support to members who may be the subject of vexatious claims of intimidation.

The advice we provide is supportive, realistic – and above all – confidential. Maintaining some level of privacy is important to achieving practical solutions.

The situation in CSIRO

While the vast majority of CSIRO employees treat each other with respect and courtesy, there is anecdotal evidence that the incidence of bullying and harassment is increasing. Staff Association organisers have reported more cases from members seeking assistance with the problem.

Most CSIRO workplaces – while not without risks – are generally safe and the working conditions are decent. However CSIRO is not perfect, there are trouble spots and plenty of room overall for improvement.

What happens next?

Just like physical safety, the Staff Association expects that CSIRO maintain a zero tolerance approach to behaviours that pose a risk to psychological health and wellbeing.

The issue was discussed in detail during December’s Consultative Council meeting. Management revealed a range of strategies as part of CSIRO’s response to the Comcare improvement notice. Some of this work has already commenced, such as the e-learning training currently being rolled out nationally. Other initiatives such as a larger revamp of policy in this area will take longer.

There’s a long way to go, but it’s a start. The Staff Association will conduct an education campaign for members on bullying and harassment early next year, to ensure the issue does not slip off the agenda.

Download this bulletin – with poster – hereFor the poster only, click here

Contact your local delegate or Staff Association organiser if you would like more information or to arrange a confidential discussion.

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3 Responses to “CSIRO Staff Association finally acknowledges bullying”

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I would recommend that people unfortunately subject to bullying at CSIRO seek legal advice as soon as they recognise what is going on. I was lulled into a false sense of security that approaching the CPSU would help. In my opinion involving the CPSU is a waste of time: nice people to chat to, but to me seemed completely out of their depth. In fact, given the prevalence of bullying at CSIRO and the ongoing state of denial amongst management, I would recommend that every employee find a lawyer they are comfortable with as soon as possible after commencing employment at CSIRO, so they know there is someone they can turn to when things start getting rough. Many law firms offer a free first interview; you can find this out when you call for an appointment. In my opinion it would be well worth the small investment of time to find a good lawyer so as to be prepared in advance.

As long as the Staff Association continues to harbour the idea that bullying and harassment is an “interpersonal dispute” they will continue to be ineffective, or worse, in ‘assisting’ targets. To claim that bullying is an ‘interpersonal dispute’ is like saying that a victim of domestic abuse is responsible for the abuse perpetrated upon them. It was quite some years ago that society completely rejected this notion. The parliamentary inquiry on workplace bullying defines workplace bullying as “repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers, that creates a risk to health and safety”. No part of that definition implies “interpersonal dispute”. The Staff Association needs to get with the program.

Guess the Staff Association aren’t interested in transparency in relation to bullying at CSIRO: they allow comments on all their other items, not that it looks like most people bother, but comments are switched off for this one. What message does that send.

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