The Labour government’s failure to consult with state sector unions on wage controls prompted the PSA to think again about affiliating to the Federation of Labour (FOL). Both National and Labour governments held discussions with the FOL and the Employers Federation before changing industrial laws and wage regulations.
The PSA leadership became convinced that affiliation was essential if trade unions were to speak with one voice. In June 1973 they issued a circular listing the advantages of affiliation. Despite membership opposition, a subcommittee was set up to report to the 1974 PSA conference.
In July 1974 there was widespread industrial action in protest at the gaoling of Bill Andersen, secretary of the Northern Drivers Union and a leading communist. Andersen had defied a court injunction taken by the owner of the Waiheke Island ferry. Public opinion was hostile to the strikers. ‘The public has had a gutsful and so have we,’ said prime minister Norman Kirk. The dispute fuelled opposition within the PSA to joining the FOL. Tom Skinner, the FOL’s president, made the pointed comment that the federation was not waiting for the PSA to do it the favour of joining. The 1974 PSA conference decided that ‘the Association not affiliate with the FOL.’
(Source: Bert Roth, Remedy for Present Evils: A history of the New Zealand Public Service Association from 1890, New Zealand Public Service Association, 1987)