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CSIRO top brass sent to anti-bully boot camp

Victims group doubts toxic culture can be turned around

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Australia's nexus for scientific research, the CSIRO, is continuing to grapple with the fallout from allegations of widespread bullying practices through the organisation.

In an internal email to all staff from the CSIRO’s CEO Dr Megan Clark distributed yesterday, the chief executive addressed concerns and outlined the steps underway to ensure that staff work in a “respectful place, free from bullying and harassment.”

The situation at Australia’s most esteemed science and development house, came to the attention of the federal health and safety regulator, Comcare following a spate of complaints from employees.

Former and current employees that have suffered from alleged workplace bullying at the CSIRO have set up a dedicated site as a support network for their experiences.

In the letter to staff, Dr Clark said that the organisation was on track to complete all the requirements of the Comcare Improvement notice.

The CSIRO is also rolling out an e-learning program nationally – Recognising and Preventing Workplace Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination – which aims to train all staff before the end of the year.

Additionally, the CSIRO’s top 70 executives have been receiving training on the ‘bullying’ issue, which focuses on values, accountability and emotional intelligence.

Dr Clark added that these measures were “just the start of our conversation and training and awareness.” The CSIRO will also be developing a multi-year strategy to improve the “maturity in this area” and stepped up its psychological health and wellbeing improvement initiatives.

Spokesperson for the Victims of CSIRO lobby group and former CSIRO project manager Andrew Hooley told The Register, “in an organisation which has consistently failed to appropriately and equitably apply its own internal employment policies, it is difficult to see how this toxic workplace culture will be improved by the addition or revision of more policies that are likely only to be provided with the same lip service.”

Hooley said that he did not believe that current Improvement Notice issued by the Comcare would be enough to shift the organisational culture that had created the situation.

“Despite a large number of psychological injury claims and complaints investigated by Comcare in relation to the CSIRO, to date, there have been absolutely no sanctions sought against the CSIRO for its considerable breaches of the workplace health and safety and other criminal and statutory instruments,” he claims.

Hooley said that many of the former employees of the CSIRO that have made bullying or harassment claims against the organisation have been fighting for a resolution for five years. ®

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