One in three staff consider quitting CSIRO…

Posted on November 19, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The following article appeared in the Guardian newspaper.  Poor morale and a lack of faith in senior management is certainly not new.  Anyone remember the survey which CSIRO independently commissioned and then refused to release because it was so scathing?  Instead CSIRO management elected to conduct their own “in-house” morale survey which consisted of a sample group of some 20 or so management and HR staff who reassured CSIRO that everything was alright!

It’s a pity that ongoing bullying and a sham investigation were not addressed in the survey also…

CSIRO: one in three staff ‘seriously considering’ quitting, survey shows

$111m federal funding cut and restructure fuelled poor morale, cynicism and fear in one in four staff

parkes telescope
The Parkes radio telescope may also be shut down to meet required savings.Photograph: AAP/CSIRO

Nearly one in three CSIRO staff are “seriously considering” leaving the research organisation after a bruising year of job losses following an internal restructure and a $111m federal funding cut.

The dire figure emerged in a survey of more than 1,200 CSIRO staff commissioned by the organisation’s board and carried out in late August and early September.

It found the number of respondents who said they would “recommend CSIRO as a good place to work” plunged 22 points to 58% compared to the last staff survey carried out in 2012.

Faith in CSIRO management was also way down; just over one in three believe the organisation’s senior leaders “have a clear vision for the future”, and fewer say they “communicate a clear direction” for the agency.

Poor morale was the major theme, with “uncertainty, cynicism, loss, confusion, distrust, disengagement and fear” featuring in one in four comments left by staff.

The CSIRO’s board signed off on a major restructure of the organisation in February after years of dwindling external investment, and in anticipation of deep cuts in the Abbott government’s first budget in May.

In the 10 months that followed more than $100m has been cut from the organisation’s federal funding and more than 700 jobs have been lost. Another 75 full-time positions were also revealed to be facing the axe this week.

Staff numbers are expected to drop more than 20% over the course of the restructure, from 6477 employees in June last year to about 5,200 people in June 2015.

The survey found the restructure was “generally appraised negatively, with the majority of respondents feeling challenged, threatened and uncertain about the current environment in CSIRO”.

“More than half of respondents felt they had been impacted ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a great deal’ by the changes,” the report said.

Though “low morale and uncertainty were repeatedly stated in comments”, the CSIRO’s scientists, engineers and support staff remain firmly committed to the organisation.

The number of staff who said they “believe strongly in the goals and objectives of the CSIRO” remained virtually unchanged at 80% since the last poll in 2012.

And 81% said they were still willing to “to work beyond what is required” to see CSIRO succeed, a strong figure, but down 10% on the survey two years ago.

A CSIRO spokesman said the agency was “undergoing a large restructure, including the loss of some roles and people, and we knew that was going to be disruptive”.

“So what we are doing is making sure senior management get out to the work sites to talk with staff to show they acknowledge the magnitude of change, listen to people’s concerns and provide as much clarity as possible on matters that affect staff,” he said.

“That engagement with staff is vital and something that the organisation works very hard to maintain at a high level.”

Catriona Jackson, the chief executive of the scientists’ lobby Science and Technology Australia, said CSIRO management was to be congratulated for running the survey in a time of such uncertainty for the organisation.

But she said the results were “depressingly unsurprising” and had “serious implications for Australia as a country”.

“When we see an organisation in which a little over half are still prepared to say it’s a good place to work, that’s a serious problem,” she said.

“The nation’s best scientists, more than half of them, are feeling threatened and uncertain, and that doesn’t help them to do decent science.”

CSIRO Staff Association secretary Sam Popovski said the survey was disturbing and “paints a picture of a dedicated workforce that has been demoralised by a year of constant cutbacks”.

“It underscores the size and gravity of the problem that incoming chief executive Dr Larry Marshall must immediately address when he takes the reins in January,” he said.

Hundreds of scientists took part in unprecedented protests against the federal government’s budget cuts to the agency in June.

The education and outreach budget has also been slashed by one-third, at the cost of 42 jobs and the children’s science club Double Helix.

The Parkes radio telescope, which helped beam the first moon landing in 1969, could also shut to meet the required savings.

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