General Trade, Mining and Manufacturing

General Trade, Mining and Manufacturing

Canberra: Industrial action hits NASA Deep Space Network after negotiations break down with CSIRO management.

Paul Lister - Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Staff at the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex will stop work this afternoon to protest against efforts by CSIRO management to forcibly implement the Australian Government’s restrictive wages policy, which threatens to negatively impacting their wages and conditions.

More than 70 employees at the facility, including operational, engineering and administrative staff, will stop work for an hour from 2.20pm today, delaying the handover of communications responsibilities from the Goldstone deep space complex in California.

The Tidbinbilla facility is one of three deep-space communications facilities that support dozens of interplanetary spacecraft missions as part of the NASA Deep Space Network, the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system on earth. While the centre is managed and operated by the CSIRO, it is entirely funded from NASA's space exploration budget with no financial contribution from the Australian Government.

The industrial action involves members of the Electrical Trades Union, Professionals Australia, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

ETU Canberra organiser Mick Koppie said negotiations between the unions and the CSIRO had been ongoing for nine months but had bogged down over management’s attempts to impose the Turnbull Government’s controversial wages policy, designed to reduce the pay and conditions of public servants.

“We have an extraordinary situation where workers at a facility that is completely funded by NASA to provide vital space communications are having their wages and conditions attacked as part of the Turnbull Government’s ideological war against the public service,” Mr Koppie said.

“Despite the fact that not one cent of funding for the Tidbinbilla deep space complex comes from the Commonwealth Government, workers have been told by management that they need to be covered by the restrictive wages policy that has already caused extensive industrial unrest across the public service.

“Today’s industrial action has not been taken lightly, but workers feel that delaying the scheduled handover of communications from California is the only way the leadership at NASA will be made fully aware of the mismanagement of this vital facility that is taking place at the behest of the Australian Government.”

Mr Koppie said industrial action was likely to escalate further if CSIRO management refused to budge, potentially causing disruption to NASA’s global deep space tracking and communication capabilities.

“Our members know just how vital their work is for maintaining communications with significant interplanetary research missions, which is why they have endured nine months of failed negotiations before taking this action,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the CSIRO board has dug its heels in and is insisting the Commonwealth’s wages policy be imposed on Tidbinbilla, leaving workers with no choice but to stop work in protest.”