Dark clouds predicted for Bureau of Meteorology

Article published 22 February 2024

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Growing controversies at the Bureau of Meteorology surrounding an unfair dismissal case have cast doubt on the organisation’s management.

It is rare for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to be in the news for anything other than a weather forecast. But in the past few weeks, the BOM has drawn some negative attention relating to its treatment of a former employee. First, a court found that the organisation had breached labour laws four times in their attempts to unfairly fire the employee. Then, the Federal Circuit Court judge that heard the case argued that three members of the BOM, including its CEO, had deliberately given false evidence while defending their actions.

‘Sham redundancy’

The court case in question was a lawsuit brought against the Bureau of Meteorology by former employee Jasmine Chambers who worked for the organisation from November 2018 – December 2020. At the centre of the case was a work conference in Paris, during which Chambers took two additional days of personal leave which had been previously approved by the organisation.

According to Chambers, the BOM later tried to fire her, in part for the two days of approved leave. When she fought back and threatened to challenge her dismissal, the organisation made her role redundant.

According to the court’s ruling, the Bureau of Meteorology then hired a recruiter to fill a newly formed role that was nearly identical to Chambers’ previous position. But senior management repeatedly asked the recruiter to delay the search for new employees to prevent Chambers from applying for the role.

When asked about this in court, the manager in question lied and said that the delays were due to a lack of funding, despite evidence showing that $300,000 had been made available specifically for that purpose.

Deeper problems at the BOM

Whilst these are the most recent issues that have plagued the BOM, they are not the only ones. According to Rick Morton, senior reporter for The Saturday Paper, these recent problems reflect a broader culture of executive mismanagement that has weakened the overall quality of the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasting. In 2022, Morton reported that management decisions to cut costs and prioritise expensive (and questionable) program upgrades had caused the BOM to fall short of its international obligations for upper-air monitoring. In addition, the Bureau’s most recent annual report shows that it has gone backwards on a number of major quality and reporting metrics.

Meanwhile, there’s major concerns about the accuracy of BOM’s weather predictions. Farmers are fed up with receiving information that leaves them high and dry (or, more accurately, dealing with heavy rain and flooding that they are unprepared for). At least one cattle producer says that he gets more accurate weather forecasts from Finland.

Our report? the forecast is not so good for the BOM’s management.

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For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

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