Sinking lids in the Public Service

Sinking lids in the public service and a wage free

At the end of 1975 the National Party won a landslide election victory. It had campaigned on an anti-union platform and the new prime minister, Robert Muldoon, was hostile to unions.

PSA members were directly affected when the government restricted pay increases and imposed a staff ceiling on the public service. Government departments were required to reduce staff ceilings by 1.5 per cent over a 12 month period. In April 1976, the Federation of Labour (FOL) held mass stopwork meetings in the main cities to demand full cost of living adjustments to wages.

The CSSO was invited to attend but decided merely to inform its members and leave action to them. When the government imposed a one year wage freeze in May 1976, the CSSO realised the need for joint action with private sector unionists.

The FOL organised a mass protest at the state opening of Parliament on 23 June. Before the protest, there was a combined meeting of state servants. Up to 6000 attended, by far the largest demonstration organised by the CSSO. Those present marched to Parliament and joined thousands of other workers who jeered, booed and broke into a mighty chant of ‘Muldoon out’ when the prime minister appeared.

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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