Weather work­ers use word­play as pay protest takes cheeky turn

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

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.

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