Formation of the Combined Service Organisations

The PSA was at the forefront of the formation of the Combined Service Organisations in February 1931. PSA president Alfred Burgess was elected president of the CSO. Nine state sector unions – representing public servants, post office workers, railway workers and teachers – took part.

This was not the first time state sector unions had worked together. A Council of NZ State Service Associations was formed in 1916 but it was short-lived.

The CSO was formed to fight the anti-worker policies of the Great Depression which engulfed the capitalist world in economic disaster. The United party government (elected in 1928) cut spending to balance the budget. Hundreds of permanent public servants lost their jobs. Thousands of temporary and casual workers were sacked. Workers’ wages were cut by 10 per cent in 1931 and by a further 10 per cent in 1932. The CSO said all sections of the community should share the burden of the depression. It proposed a special wage tax, increases in income tax and a special tax on unearned incomes. While the government rejected these arguments, the PSA and other state sector unions kept on fighting for their members’ interests. The CSO was superseded by an expanded Combined State Service Organisations (CSSO) in 1970


(Source: Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987)

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