Agriculture Victoria job cuts to research

By Jamie Salter

Agriculture Victoria will be axing jobs across its research branches which could result in the loss of 50 positions at offices in Macleod, Horsham, Bendigo, Rutherglen and Bundoora.

It is believed six positions will be cut in Tatura.

When asked in parliament, Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the cuts were due to a lack of industry support.

An Agriculture Victoria spokesperson said changes would be made in full consultation with staff.

“We're listening to farming businesses, reviewing research that doesn’t attract co-investment from industry, while we grow research and innovation initiatives that have strong industry support — to boost our farming sector and create jobs.”

Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the Victorian Government should be investing more in agriculture research rather than axing jobs.

“At a time when there’s growing demand for Victoria’s high-quality, sustainable food and fibre, the Andrews Labor Government shouldn’t be slashing important research jobs that will help our agriculture sector grow and prosper in the future,” Mr Walsh said.

The positions are in research of spacial and landscape science, with the biggest impact on soil research.

Community and Public Sector Union secretary Karen Batt said the process had been handled poorly, as staff members were first notified without prior consultation on Monday, November 4.

“We contacted the department secretary and brought it to his attention, the notices have been put on hold for the moment,” she said.

“We wanted to stop the whole process and talk to the families involved.”

Ms Batt said the department handled complex work and it would be a mistake to throw that away.

“These scientists fight disease, reduce environmental impact and support on-farm practices to 22 000 businesses,” she said.

“It will have a significant impact on the farming community in dealing with climate change.”

Some staff members have worked with Agriculture Victoria for more than 30 years.

“To call staff in only six weeks from Christmas is a disgraceful act,” Ms Batt said.

“We're talking about people's livelihoods and not just these vital staff, but for our regional communities and our entire food production industry.”

A number of meetings have been held and the CPSU is waiting to be notified of any changes.