Assessment of Dr Borgas’ Interview on Radio 2cc

Posted on January 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following assessment of the 2CC Mike Welsh interview with Dr Michael Borgas from the CSIRO Staff Association was posted recently on the APS Ozloop site by APS Dignity (  The feedback we have received to date would suggest that there has been a considerable backlash over a number of comments made during the interview.  It is also quite interesting to note that the recent blog posted by the CSIRO Staff Association on its own website, is to date, the only posting to have comments disabled.  This seems a little incongruous given the importance of dialogue on the issue and the Staff Association’s previous stance on the gagging of its own members.

As always, we are happy to work with the Staff Association on addressing this most serious of workplace matters.

A word of wisdom to the Staff Association.  Your members have been asking you to address the issue of workplace bullying within the CSIRO for a considerable period of time.  Perhaps it would be a good time to start listening to them!

Can you tell the difference between CPSU spin and CSIRO Human Resources spin?

In answer to that question, we can’t… except perhaps that CSIRO’s Human Resources personnel are probably a bit more skilled at it than the CPSU in terms of being able to fake some public sympathy for victims of workplace bullying.

In a recent radio interview on Canberra’s 2CC radio station, the President of the CSIRO Staff Association (a section of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)), Dr Michael Borgas, was questioned about the toxic workplace culture that has been allowed to pervade the CSIRO over the past decade. The culture has resulted in victims neglected by the CPSU forming a support and advocacy group called Victims of CSIRO (with its own website), which is aware of over 80 cases of workplace abuse.

Dr Borgas was interviewed by the switched-on Mike Welsh, and it made for both compelling listening (in terms of Mr Welsh’s sharp interviewing skills) and cringe-worthy listening (in terms of Dr Borgas’s apparent lack of preparation and persistent weasel responses). A link to the radio interview can be found here.

What came out of the interview was essentially the following:

  • Dr Borgas went from admitting that the CSIRO has a toxic workplace culture, then to watering-down the significance of this fact by claiming toxicity was a common feature of all workplaces, to then claim that toxicity in the CSIRO is ‘rare’ and ‘at the margins’. Mr Welsh astutely pointed out Dr Borgas’s contradictions and noted that Comcare’s recent official order to the CSIRO to protect its staff against psychological injuries caused by bullying would suggest the problem is systemic and longstanding.
  • Dr Borgas stated he has been the President of the CSIRO Staff Association for 10 years. Mr Welsh asked if the CSIRO culture had gotten worse under his tenure to which Dr Borgas admitted that nothing had changed during his tenure, thereby inadvertently indicating that workplace bullying in the CSIRO has been a problem for greater than a decade. Dr Borgas then contradicted himself again by stating that the situation is actually improving in the CSIRO.
  • Dr Borgas seemed to attempt to diminish the significance and credibility of the Victims of CSIRO group, referring to their website as a ‘new phenomenon’ and that it was only dealing with ‘handfuls of cases’. Mr Welsh then questioned Dr Borgas about his actual knowledge of the number of cases known to Victims of CSIRO, to which Dr Borgas had to admit his ignorance.

Other issues that came out of the interview was that the CSIRO Staff Association had not been keeping statistics on numbers of complaints, and the CSIRO Staff Association appeared to be taking a soft stance on workplace bullying and was siding more with management. In the end, Mr Welsh concluded that it seemed that Dr Borgas had not been doing his job properly.

It was apparent to us that Dr Borgas was downplaying the issue of workplace bullying in the CSIRO to compensate for the CSIRO Staff Association’s failure to effectively address the problem over the past decade. Furthermore, it is our view that Dr Borgas’s substandard performance in the interview was an embarrassment. If Dr Borgas is the best talent that the CSIRO Staff Association has, then we wonder what this says about the people working under him.

Perhaps members of the CSIRO Staff Association should consider withdrawing their membership and joining the Victims of CSIRO group instead, which seems to be a far more professional and powerful voice for targets of workplace abuse in the CSIRO.

Comment by APS Dignity 18 hours ago
Thanks Serene and Arey. Yes, Serene, Mike Welsh did a fine job with holding Dr Michael Borgas to account in the interview. Arey, you make two excellent points. It is time for a new leader, preferrably from outside the existing Staff Association’s ranks, to ensure views and practices are untainted.
Comment by Arey Aich 20 hours ago

Excellent post APS Dignity and a very telling radio interview by Mike Welsh.

Scientists are all about statistics. If the so-called ‘representatives’ of scientific staff (who themselves seem also to be scientists) don’t even keep statistics on complaints, what hope is there for anybody else. Of course having no statistics  makes it very easy to deny there is a problem. Given the apparent state of denial as to the issue of bullying at CSIRO by CSIRO management, it’s hard not to conclude failure to keep statistics is, and has been, a deliberate policy.

I think there is also a deeper issue at work here. There is a good reason why US presidents can only serve for a maximum of 2 terms: corruptibility. No matter how determined an advocate a person may be when they nominate for staff association president, or for that matter commence advocating against any of the ‘powers that be’, it is pretty unlikely that someone can mingle with the management ‘opposition’ for 10 years without being wooed over, or at least influenced. What is more remarkable are the exceptional few who, after achieving positions of influence, altruistically maintain the integrity of their original fight.


Comment by Serene Teffaha 20 hours ago
Thank you for your post APS Dignity—

Listening to Borgas, I find myself advocating for the same shift from the CPSU to victimsofcsiro!

Some people criticised Mike Welsh for being overtly aggressive! I think he was doing a fabulous job in exposing CSIRO’s hypocrisy and the impotence of the CPSU!

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