In July 1979 the Federation of Labour (FOL) applied to the Arbitration Court for a minimum living wage. The PSA and other unions were appalled when the Muldoon government reacted by passing the Remuneration Act
This gave the government the power to intervene in wage settlements. In September 1979 the government threatened to change the settlement negotiated between the drivers’ union and its employers. The FOL responded and NZ’s first national general strike took place on 20 September 1979.
Two days before the strike, a special PSA executive meeting called on members to join in. ‘This is our strike too’, read the headline of a PSA leaflet. For the first time, PSA members staged peaceful pickets outside major government offices in central Wellington. The general strike was by no means complete, but it involved close to 300,000 workers. The Wellington section of the PSA estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of its members took part. There was much stronger support among PSA members in broadcasting and the government printing office. The government claimed the strike had been a failure. However it agreed that the drivers’ settlement could go to the Arbitration Court which gave the workers much the same as their negotiated increase.
Source: Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987)