PSA members and other state workers protested strongly when the government amended the State Services Conditions of Employment Act in 1977. In August 1983, the government introduced further amendments to the act.
To the CSU’s surprise, these included the automatic application of penalty provisions against unjustified industrial action. PSA president Colin Hicks described the bill as ‘little short of a cynical attack on the pay and conditions of Association members’. In 1977, protests from state unionists resulted in concessions by the government. In 1983, it refused to back down. The government printed a quarter of a million copies of a glossy pamphlet ‘Your Pay’, defending the bill, and distributed them to state workers.
The PSA and CSU decided on a campaign against the bill, with special attention to marginal government seats in the 1984 election. It planned a series of ‘days of action’ against the bill. The first was held on 12 October 1983 when thousands of Auckland state workers stopped work for an hour. As part of the settlement of the 1983 PSA electricity workers’ dispute, the CSU and PSA gained some concessions on the bill. At the last minute, and without consultation, the government introduced a new clause depriving electricity workers of the right to strike.