The Public Service Act 1912 laid the groundwork for a new public service union. A strong employees’ association was needed to counterbalance the concentration of power in the hands of a single Public Service Commissioner, while the independence the public service now had from political influence provided the freedom for a union to give public servants a political voice.
There was also a rising awareness of worker rights in the wake of the Waihi Strike of 1912 (which later exploded in the Waterfront Strike of 1913).
An attempt was made by a group of young members to revitalise the old Civil Service Association to respond to the opportunities created by the Act, with increased interest in a number of the CSA’s branches. However, at the CSA annual conference in September 1913 it was decided to make a clean break with the past by adopting new rules and a new name – the New Zealand Public Service Association. Membership was to be open to ‘all persons in the employment of the New Zealand Government’ and its first President was John MacDonald (solicitor to the Public Trust Department) and first General Secretary was Frank Millar (clerk in the Education Department). The conference reflected a new energy, discussing remits on such matters as allowances, superannuation and appeal rights, with the results being conveyed to the Commissioner immediately afterwards. The PSA was registered as an incorporated society on 1 October 1913.
(Source: Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987)