New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

In 1982 the government froze wages. The Combined State Unions(CSU) and the Federation of Labour) (FOL) joined forces in a campaign that swiftly gathered momentum and support. The vigour of the campaign prompted PSA leaders to consider, yet again, the possibility of affiliating to the FOL. The opposition of many Association members was almost automatic.

FOL leader Ken Douglas had told the Association’s Advisory Council that ‘the present structure… should not be seen as a barrier to the extension and unification of organised labour’.  A week later the PSA discussed setting up an entirely new organisation which deputy general secretary Colin Clark suggested calling the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. It would include state sector unions, the FOL’s member unions, and the unaffiliated private sector unions (which included the bank officers and local government unions).

It would take five more years, but the Council of Trade Unions was established, and the Combined State Unions and the Federation of Labour ceased to exist. In line with the original plan, it was a broad organisation which continues to represent New Zealand trade unions in 2013.

The  NZ Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) was established on 21st October 1987. This was the final day of the NZCTU’s inaugural conference. Held at the Wellington Town Hall, it was attended by 340 delegates representing 70 unions. With 25 delegates, the PSA was well represented. Colin Hicks, PSA president and chair of the Combined State Unions, chaired the opening session.

The conference adopted the NZCTU constitution and policy platform. Most of the work had been done at a preliminary conference in March 1987. The March conference voted narrowly that the NZCTU women’s and Maori committees should each be represented on the national executive by two voting members. The PSA delegation voted against this amendment.

The inaugural conference elected Ken Douglas, secretary of the Federation of Labour, as the first president of the NZCTU. Ron Burgess, former general secretary of the Post Office Union, was elected secretary of the NZCTU. Angela Foulkes, former president of the Bank Officers Union, was elected vice-president. PSA general secretary Colin Clark was elected to the NZCTU national executive. As secretary of the NZCTU organising committee from1982, Clark played a key role in planning the new central union organisation.

(Source: NZCTU Constitution and Policy (includes minutes of NZCTU inaugural conference and constitution and policy as amended and adopted at the inaugural NZCTU conference, October 1987), New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, 1987)

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