CSIRO bullying report identifies more than “pockets of concern”

14 August 2013
Leading employment law firm Maurice Blackburn says a "blame the victim" approach to workplace bullying at CSIRO has to end if the organisation wants to fix the way it manages allegations of bullying, harassment and unreasonable behaviour.

A Phase 1, independent report titled "Workplace Conduct in CSIRO" by former Commonwealth Ombudsman Professor Dennis Pearce AO released today makes 34 recommendations on how bullying is managed by Australia's peak scientific research agency. The report investigators received 110 submissions, half of these from former employees of CSIRO.  The terms of reference did not allow for anonymity. 

Giri Sivaraman, employment principal at Maurice Blackburn said; 'I wrote to Comcare in 2012 on behalf of 12 former CSIRO staff members alleging that bullying behaviour at CSIRO was causing a hazard to workplace health and safety. There is nothing in this report that denies that. Most of those former staff members were concerned about the terms of reference of Professor Pearce's enquiry and did not make submissions.  This was largely because they do not trust the senior management of CSIRO, who commissioned the report."  

"It seems bizarre that the inquiry says there are only 'pockets of concern' and yet 110 submissions were received and a series of recommendations are made to address the 'blame the victim culture' that was prevalent in CSIRO."

"This report has backed up our view that there are some serious issues at CSIRO. Of the 130 allegations received 95% relate to multiple incidents of workplace bullying or unreasonable behavior. That does not seem like a 'pocket of concern' to me."

"While this review has said there is no toxic culture of bullying at CSIRO, it claims the organization has not handled allegations of bullying well in a number of instances.  It further says that CSIRO has a big job ahead of it to fix up its internal grievance procedures to ensure that victims of bullying are taken seriously and people are not made to feel like it's their problem. The widespread mistrust of senior management is specifically commented upon."

"There is an incredible pool of smart and talented staff currently at CSIRO and many others who have left, and to see this talent and expertise wasted because of bullying and harassment is a tragedy."

There still remains an obligation on Comcare to take action to address the issues raised last year.

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