AgResearch jobs for axe

Five staff at AgResearch in Palmerston North have been told their jobs are up for review.

The employees, members of the forage improvement team at the Grasslands campus, were told at a meeting yesterday about a proposal to make them redundant.

AgResearch research director Professor Warren McNabb said the proposal had been developed after a "great deal of consideration balancing capability, revenue and future science strategy".

Five roles were affected, four scientists and one technician, and it was proposed two new technician roles be created. "We have begun consulting with those whose roles are affected, and the process will finish next month," he said.

The changes were related to funding levels for AgResearch and were unrelated to the larger restructure under way across the Crown Research Institute nationally.

In that plan some 50 roles will be transferred to Palmerston North from other AgResearch sites by 2017.

Four of the staff affected by yesterday's announcement were members of the Public Service Association.

PSA assistant secretary Jeff Osborne said the news had come as a surprise.

PSA was working with the staff on submissions to the review, but it was likely that Palmerston North was about to lose four "relatively highly paid jobs".

The losses were not a matter of increasing efficiency, but of changes to funding for specific areas of research, Osborne said. Those affected worked in a specialised area for which there was no longer funding.

The losses were a symptom of the short-term government funding model Crown Research Institutes worked under, where they effectively had to "chase the money".

The PSA estimated AgResearch had made about 30 science staff redundant in the past year, which equated to about 6 per cent of its science work force.

Often roles in science were quite specialised, Osborne said, and it was unclear what opportunities there were in other employment for the affected staff.

Manawatu Standard