CSIRO has awarded management consultants McKinsey a $1.21 million contract for ‘business administration services’ and will assist “a program of work to review, simplify and streamline organisational processes and systems to deliver against (CSIRO) strategy.”

The move to engage the US-based consulting house – which made news last November when it won out over CSIRO and Treasury to supply modelling for the Federal Government’s carbon net-zero by 2050 commitment – revived fears of further job cuts at Australia’s premier science organisation.

“CSIRO employees have raised their concerns with the Staff Association given the ongoing restructures and redundancies that have affected CSIRO workers during a very difficult 2020 and 2021,” CSIRO Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks said.

“The union calls on management to guarantee that this review process will not lead to any forced redundancies or job cuts,” Ms Tonks said.

‘Review, simplify and streamline’

CSIRO confirmed the purpose for the contract in a statement InnovationAus.

“CSIRO has initiated a program of work to review, simplify and streamline organisational processes and systems to deliver against our strategy,” CSIRO spokesperson said.

“A CSIRO-led team is being supported by McKinsey who have been engaged for initial input, and to draw on their experience of working with other organisations with similar programs.” APaIR focus

The pressure to align appropriation funding – boosted by the Federal Government’s $459 million Covid lifeline – with CSIRO strategy was spelled out by Chief Executive Larry Marshall in an email to staff last October.

“We have an exciting vision for CSIRO in 2030, articulated by you through our Agency of the Future crowdsourcing, but we need to make the right decisions now to ensure we can get there… so, what does this mean in reality?

“It means working with your leaders to prioritise projects that are absolutely aligned to our purpose and Business Unit strategies.

“It means taking this very fortunate moment with the government support to create a more sustainable CSIRO for the future, leveraging the recent Annual Performance and Investment Review (APaIR) funded initiatives to reposition our organisation for the future,” Dr Marshall said.

Call for consultation and transparency

“The Staff Association is concerned that CSIRO has not consulted with employees or their representatives regarding this review or the decision to engage external consultants, at some considerable cost,” Ms Tonks said.

“We’re seeking an urgent meeting with CSIRO management to discuss the scope of the review and timeframe, the process and mechanism for meaningful staff consultation and a commitment to transparent communication including the release of review documents and reports.”

Media contact: Anthony Keenan - 0410 330 764