Following sustained advocacy from the CSIRO Staff Association – based on issues first raised by a workplace delegate and a Health and Safety Representative – CSIRO have agreed to retain and repair research vessel Linnaeus.

RV Linnaeus is a small CSIRO research vessel operated by Oceans and Atmosphere (OA) and National Collections Marine Infrastructure (NCMI) staff in Western Australia that was docked early in 2021 due to engine failure. However, CSIRO’s interim solution of hiring a commercial charter to undertake research work prompted genuine health and safety concerns.

Taking up the issue on behalf of members at the Crawley site, Staff Association Secretary Susan Tonks wrote to senior management in January 2022 and relayed the concerns.

Genuine concerns

“The Staff Association understands the importance and priority of the ongoing research work being carried out across multiple projects; however we are very concerned with the delay on the decision and the subsequent health and safety concerns associated with the continued use of the commercial charter vessel for the research work being undertaken,” Ms Tonks said.

Following a meeting between the Staff Association representatives, and senior leadership from both OA and NCMI, CSIRO committed to make a final decision on whether to reinstate RV Linnaeus by end of February.

NCMI steps up

Three months later, CSIRO finally agreed to reinstate RV Linnaeas. In an email to staff Director Toni Moate stated that “NCMI has decided to accept the transfer of the RV Linnaeus from OA into the Engineering and Technology Program in NCMI.”

“Furthermore, funds will be provided by NCMI to replace the main engine and to bring the vessel back to a safe seagoing state,” Ms Moate said.

Staff Association organiser for Western Australia Michelle Hackett welcomed the decision.

Win for staff

“This is a huge win for staff at CSIRO Crawley who have been trying for the last twelve months to get approval to get the vessel back in the water.”

“Both the local HSR and Staff Association delegate were critical in bringing safety concerns to the forefront of CSIRO’s decision-making process,” Ms Hackett said.

Health and safety focus

In outlining her reasoning for reinstating the vessel, Ms Moate acknowledged CSIRO’s “desire to focus on safe operations.”

“We would like to thank the many people that contributed to the information that supported this decision and apologise that it took longer than anticipated to come to a final position.”

“This is a good decision for CSIRO that considers safe operations for our staff and has balanced the complementary strategic directions for NCMI and OA,” Ms Moate said.

Big difference

Ms Hackett said the episode showed that the hard work of workplace delegates, active members and HSRs pays off.

“Staff Association workplace delegates and HSRs can make a big difference to the health and safety of staff at CSIRO, and in securing such excellent outcomes as this,” Ms Hackett said.