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Upheaval for staff at Callaghan Innovation

8 August 2013

Upheaval for staff at Callaghan Innovation

The Public Service Association says the potential loss of a multi-million dollar hi-tech business deal is part of a wider story about the reorganisation of science and technology capability within the new government science body Callaghan Innovation.

Callaghan Innovation has effectively pulled the plug on a contract being negotiated by its subsidiary Kiwistar to design and make equipment for the Australian Astronomical Observatory. The decision means the future of Kiwistar and its staff is now very uncertain.

The PSA says it’s symptomatic of wider uncertainty.

As part of a shakeup of resources about a quarter or 60 research and development staff are to be transferred out of Callaghan Innovation and into universities.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff says “it’s about what happens to the research capability which doesn’t fit into Callaghan’s plan and focus."

“As far as we know there haven’t yet been any negotiations with universities as to whether staff will be able to retain their current pay and conditions and how their work and positions will be funded in the long-term. It is causing a lot of stress and anxiety,” he says.

There are also many unknowns for R&D staff who will be retained within Callaghan Innovation whose focus will be on more applied and technical services.

“Our members are telling us that the demand for technical services may not be there and private service providers, engineering consultants and design firms operating in that space will not welcome and should not face government-subsidised competition,” Richard Wagstaff says.

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“Callaghan Innovation has given a commitment to avoid any loss of capability from New Zealand’s R&D system but staff are not convinced.”

“They are concerned that rather than strengthening New Zealand’s so-called innovation system, the changes could end up fragmenting our R&D capability by moving teams further away from the sharp end of the market and putting them in a university environment.”

The PSA has been talking to Callaghan Innovation to get some clarity around what’s happening and to seek assurances that proper protections are in place for members whose futures are uncertain.

ENDS

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