By the 1940s the PSA’s Wellington branch was alive with political maneuvering. A leftwing group known as the Korero was determined to change the Association’s passive, be-grateful-for-what-you-get relationship with the government and Public Service Commission.
The Korero wanted action – pay was lagging behind private sector rates, some members had been employed on a temporary basis for years, women had waited decades for equal pay, and ‘depression juniors’, taken on at special low rates during the Great Depression, had not caught up once the economy improved. In a letter to the PSA Journal in 1942, a feisty activist named Jack Lewin described the Association as ‘thickly sprinkled, if not dominated, by permanent heads or aspirants for such positions’, and called for the rank and file to make the PSA a ‘real employees’ Association’.
Lewin was a central figure in the Korero ginger group. Once he became president of the Association in 1946 the push for change become unstoppable.
Under Lewin’s vigorous leadership the PSA became a much more effective, resolute and independent-minded body with strong rank and file support. The government and Public Service Commission were not happy with this transformation and neither, at times, were all PSA members. Lewin lost the presidency in 1951 but he remained a force to be reckoned with within the Association.
Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987