Weather workers use wordplay as pay protest takes cheeky turn
Striking staff at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology have hidden messages inside weather forecasts – including an elaborate hidden poem – as they bargain for better pay and conditions.
On Thursday and Friday, messages such as ‘‘#BoMonStrike’’ and ‘‘#SupportUs’’ were placed at the end of regular forecasts as part of industrial action that began on Wednesday.
Organisers from the Community Public Sector Union said the messages were ‘‘a bit of a cheeky way’’ for staff to speak to the public, and protest about the fact that they had not received a pay rise in five years.
One forecaster even embedded the message in an extensive analysis of satellite data, creating a 100-word, 10-line acrostic – a poem, word puzzle or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words – that spelled out ‘‘BOM ON STRIKE’’.
‘‘Building cloud from the west is from an upper trough and tropical moisture,’’ it began. ‘‘On Thursday, this cloud will continue to stream eastwards across the continent. More thick cloud over south-west WA is from an approaching trough.’’
On live crosses to radio, some meteorologists read out a statement to listeners explaining why they were taking action, and the background of the long-running pay dispute.
This week’s protest is the second protected industrial action that union members have taken during an industrial dispute that is now four years old. The enterprise agreement between the bureau and its staff expired in 2014, and a new deal has been mired in negotiations ever since.
‘‘We want people to know what is going on,’’ said the CPSU’s deputy secretary, Beth Vincent-Pietsch. ‘‘It’s so hard for public servants to have their own voice. This way, we could talk to people in a bit of a cheeky way.
‘‘We’ve been battling for four years. So we looked around for creative ways of engaging the public.’’
The union is still conducting more traditional protests, including a rolling strike and bans on certain meetings with management.
Vincent-Pietsch said the bureau’s management had clamped down on the protest messages – which had been deleted – by forcing staff to run all social media posts through a central administrator.
‘‘They are hating the hashtags, they hate the links to union petitions being put in,’’ she said. ‘‘But they’re struggling, because we have a lot of union members across the business.’’
Last year, employees at the bureau took part in three weeks of protests over a decision to cut staff conditions in remote stations.