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‘Research Fund’ Must Boost Science Salaries

March 11, 2008
For Immediate Use

PSA: ‘Research Fund’ Must Be Used to Boost Science Salaries

“It’s vital that money from the new $700 million fund,* for research and innovation in our pastoral and food industries, is used to increase the pay of the Government’s science staff,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA has 2500 members working as scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff at the nine state-owned Crown Research Institutes. Each CRI is based around a productive sector of the economy, such as AgResearch whose science staff work to boost the productivity of the pastoral sector.

“We welcome this new fund because research is the key to increasing the productivity of our food and pastoral industries that remain the engine room of our economy,” Richard Wagstaff.

“But our CRIs are struggling to retain and recruit science staff because these highly skilled workers can earn far more working in non-science industries in New Zealand or in science jobs overseas,” says Richard Wagstaff.

In 2001, market surveys conducted by AgResearch, showed its science staff were paid, at a similar rate to other science institutes in New Zealand, but an average of 20.4% below non-science industries.

“We negotiated pay rises for AgResearch science staff last year, but they're still paid 14.6% less than they can earn working for a non-science industry,” say Richard Wagstaff.

CRI’s are also having to compete with overseas universities and research institutions that pay much higher salaries. A New Zealand scientist told a weekend newspaper he was earning three times his New Zealand take-home-pay working at the National University of Singapore.

“This is why it’s essential that money being invested in the new ‘research fund’ is used to lift pay rates for science staff at our CRIs,’’ says Richard Wagstaff. “We need to ensure that they’re able to hold onto their world class science staff.”

“We also need to make working as a research scientist an attractive career for young New Zealanders studying science,” says Richard Wagstaff.

*The Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced that the Labour-Progressive Government is committing $700 million to a new research, development and innovation plan for the pastoral and food industries.


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