Weather Bureau to abandon local forecasting expertise

The CPSU says the Bureau of Meteorlogy’s new plan to centralise all weather forecasting in Melbourne and Brisbane within two years will be a disaster for communities around the country, while undercutting the knowledge and experience of forecasters.

BOM Director Andrew Johnson sprung the plan on the more than 200 forecasters based around Australia in an email sent to all staff on Monday afternoon.

The memo says locally based teams in each state and territory will be reduced to “Customer Focussed Delivery Teams”, with all forecast production and specialist technical roles moved to Melbourne and Brisbane.

CPSU Deputy Secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said: “This announcement has come as a total bolt from the blue for Weather Bureau forecasters. They are absolutely dismayed at the impact this is going to have on the critical forecasting services they provide to communities right around Australia, and of course the potential personal cost if there are job cuts or forced staff relocations.”

“From the scant information that’s available so far it appears to us that BOM will be establishing two forecasting sausage factories, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane. We’re concerned that a relatively small number of forecasters in these two sites will be expected to churn out information for dozens of locations, inevitably downgrading quality.”

“Local knowledge plays a critical role in providing the best possible weather forecasts for local communities. Forecasters are able to manipulate computer simulations and other tools based on their own local experience to get the most accurate possible product, and are able to quickly issue warnings. It also means they can provide much more useful and relevant information to local media and the general community.”

“This decision follows the centralisation that’s already occurred for aviation forecasting, with that operation also consolidated to Melbourne and Brisbane. Our members believe that the Weather Bureau is taking operational decisions almost entirely on the basis of cost rather than properly considering the impact on the quality of forecasting or on the lives of the highly qualified staff caught in the middle of this.”

“We’re urgently seeking more details from BOM management on what this restructure will mean for forecasters, including how many jobs will be retained outside of Melbourne and Brisbane and what sort of work those staff will be doing in the future. Unless BOM can show our members that this change will lead to better forecasting, we’ll be campaigning strongly to have the decision reversed.”