THEY may have many feathers in their caps, but the CSIRO's Hunter researchers say they are suffering under a ceiling on their staff numbers in what the government has branded "fiction and unverified claims".
Shadow Minister for Science, Employment and Industry Brendan O'Connor met with staff in Newcastle on Thursday to discuss the impact of the Average Staffing Level policy, which Labor has branded an arbitrary staffing cap.
"This is the world-class institution that invented wifi, plastic bank notes and Aerogard, to name just a few," Mr O'Connor said.
"It's foolish to shackle Australia's top scientists from making new important breakthroughs."
Labor claims the policy limits the CSIRO's staff to 5193 people, which federal Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said matched the organisation's size with 2007 levels.
"This has essentially created a staffing freeze that is forcing CSIRO researchers to fill vacancies with external contractors at a premium price," she said.
"Not only does this mean that taxpayers are spending more to get less, this also undermines the pay and conditions of existing workers and locking a generation of STEM graduates out of long-term scientific work."
This is the world-class institution that invented wifi, plastic bank notes and Aerogard, to name just a few.- Shadow Minister for Science, Employment and Industry Brendan O'Connor
Newcastle CSIRO Staff Association delegate Mike Collins said workers were concerned the cap's application "is putting the breakthrough energy research projects happening at Newcastle at risk".
Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews accused the Opposition of "peddling fiction and unverified claims made by the union".
"CSIRO itself has repeatedly said there is no recruitment freeze or positions being reviewed," Ms Andrews said.
"The Liberal National government has invested $1.6 billion more in our science agencies than Labor did, including $101 million more for CSIRO.
"The Morrison government values the contribution of research and the work CSIRO does in delivering very significant economic and social benefits to Australia."
In August, an unnamed Newcastle researcher was quoted in a senate inquiry submission on behalf of the union about the matter.
The researcher argued that contractors took knowledge with them after their employment was done, a difference that would hurt the CSIRO in the long run.
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