Private sector unions were the initial target of the Muldoon government. It introduced severe penalties for industrial action and deregistered the Wellington Boilermakers Union. Deregistration meant that a union lost its legal rights and its assets.
The PSA and other state unions were alarmed when, in February 1977, the government proposed changes to the State Services Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act. These included penalties for industrial action, derecognition of state unions and seizure of their assets.
The PSA warned that the proposals were ‘symptomatic of the government’s desire for repression of trade unions’. 4000 state servants attended a lunch-time protest meeting in Auckland in September 1977, 2600 crowded into an overflow meeting in Christchurch, more than 2000 attended in Wellington and over 1000 in Dunedin. In prolonged negotiations with the government, the CSSO was able to gain some significant improvements in the government’s bill. The derecognition clause was deleted. Although the other penal provisions remained, the government agreed they would remain inoperative until activated by Order-in-Council.
Source: Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987)