Increasing CSIRO costs could result in 40 to 50 of its IT staff losing their jobs, according to Dr Michael Borgas, CSIRO staff association president for the Community and Public Sector Union.
According to the union, CSIRO's corporate support area had a frozen budget and $9 million in extra costs, $3 million of which were for Microsoft licences. The CSIRO is no longer considered as an academic organisation for software purposes, which has led to the additional charge, Borgas said.
In order to balance out the $9 million, savings that could not be found in other areas will have to be made by cutting jobs, the union said in a statement, with management not specifying a figure. The 40 to 50 number had been gleaned from sources, it said. IT support has around 300 staff, according to Borgas.
The union has said that CSIRO will unveil a new organisational structure after a national tour of sites, which started this Tuesday. Staff will then have some time to consider before applying for positions within that structure.
Borgas was concerned that the organisation seemed to be looking to retain workers with lower levels of skill and wages. He believed this would hinder scientists from being able to carry out their jobs efficiently, as the specialist IT workers supported the science projects heavily.
"IT is an essential part of doing the business of science now," he said, adding that if everyone was administering their own PCs and setting up their own labs, not as much science would get done. "If you're getting scientists to do that ... it's taking away time from the scientist."
A $70 to $80 million increase in capital expenditure, on, for example, laboratory equipment and computers, would also exacerbate the situation, he said. "Virtually no laboratory equipment that you can buy these days is devoid of IT."
Borgas expected that the redundancies would be made by September or October. The cuts are part of a larger program of support redundancies, according to Borgas.
CSIRO declined to comment, saying it would be premature to do so because of the face-to-face briefings it was currently holding with staff.
(Front page image credit: Parkes Radio Telescope "The Dish" image by Tamsin Slater, CC BY-SA 2.0)