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Congress 2012

PSA Congress 2012 was  attended by 132 delegates from around the country. It  was held on 25-26 September at the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington.

The theme of the conference was Transforming the Workplace – Whakahoungia to Tātou Wāhi Mahi. Transforming the Workplace is one of the PSA’s top four priorities. Delegates took part in seven workshops focused on different aspects of working life, sharing experiences and generating ideas on engaging with employers and engaging members in transforming their workplaces.

New president

Congress elected  a new president – Mike Tana. Mike joined the PSA in 2003 and became a workplace delegate at what was the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.  He quickly moved into leadership roles within the union’s public sector and within the PSA Rūnanga representing Māori members.Mike Tana

says his objective as president   is “to ensure the PSA continues to proactively provide protection for members, making the Government take ownership of the consequences and impacts that job and spending cuts have for the working New Zealander and New Zealand as a country.”

He is a Wellington-based senior biosecurity advisor in the Ministry for Primary Industries. He takes over from Christchurch scientist Paula Scholes, who served as president for the past four years.

You can read our media release here.

The PSA Report to Congress 2012 can be downloaded here and the Financial Report here.

Bill English address to Congress

In her introduction to Bill English National Secretary Brenda Pilott said that proposed amendments to the State Sector Act were sending "some very worrying signals about how the government intends to manage the state sector workforce. You can read her address  here.


Deputy Prime Minister Bill English told Congress that the Government would continue with its objective of “doing more with less”. With some exceptions there would not be more restructuring in the public service. Instead, the Government wanted agencies to adopt a policy of continuous improvement and have more engagement of staff.

Bill English said that changes to the State Sector Act “won’t narrow the scope of collective bargaining” and workers were entitled to regular pay increases to maintain their standard of living.

On the question of extending paid parental leave, he said it was not a top priority for the Government which wanted to focus on urgent social issues, supporting the children of young mothers and sexual  abuse victims.

You can see the TVNZ News report on Bill English’s address here.


Keynote speakers

Congress delegates had the opportunity to hear two inspiring and thoughtful addresses on the role of unions.

Nigel Haworth, Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Auckland, told Congress that New Zealand was lagging behind in developing high trust , high performance workplaces. Evidence clearly showed that high union involvement and participation in the workplace was a key factor in driving economic growth.


CTU president Helen Kelly spoke about the challenges facing unions  and the  lack of respect for workers in the private sector and the importance of the public sector unions like the PSA in providing a strong voice for unions and workers.  She said unions needed to have a wider reach and promote their values so that the public understood what they stood for.  She cited the examples of Greenpeace and Amnesty International as organisations that were instantly recognised for the values they espoused.   


Six remits were carried at the conference. The conference voted to:

·         amend the Rules to conduct a secret ballot before strike action

·         allow notices of motion to be amended at Congress

·         remove the words “through the Partnership for Quality strategy” from the Rules

·         appoint Deloitte as auditor

·         increase honoraria for the executive board

·         confer life membership on Jim Turner, Peter Harris and Georgina Kerr.

Life members

Life membership of the PSA is a special honour confirmed on those who have made a “significant and sustained contribution to the PSA”.  The 2012 recipients more than met those criteria.

Peter Harris, Georgina Kerr, Jim Tucker

Georgina Kerr is an education reviewer with the Education Review Office who joined the PSA in 1990 and has made a huge contribution to the union at many levels including executive board member, PSA kuia and vice president. She has been a strong advocate for increasing Māori participation in the union.


Economist Peter Harris is a former researcher and assistant general secretary of the PSA, who later played a key role in the development of the Council of Trade unions and continues to use his economic expertise and analytic abilities to assist the union movement to have a strong and credible voice.In the video he describes changes to the public service and reminiscences about his time at the PSA

Jim Turner served four terms as PSA president and led the PSA through the difficult Muldoon years when the union was threatened with derecognition. He played a significant role in gaining support for an all-union  organisation  that later led to the creation of the Council of Trade Unions.