At the same time as women fought for an anti-discrimination agreement for the public sector, the Working Women’s Convention attracted 400 delegates from across the PSA.
The convention was chaired by Sonja Davies, the founder of the Working Women Council. The Convention adopted the ‘Working Women’s Charter which affirmed ‘the right to work for everyone who wishes to do so’ - a particular relevant claim considering that women made up only 30% of the workforce at the time.
Inspired by the Convention, the Working Women Council launched a wide ranging campaign in 1977 among women’s organisations, trade unions and the Labour Party to endorse the Charter. To many women’s disappointment, the New Zealand Federation of Labour had referred the charter back to unions and trade councils for further consideration. After an ‘almost unbelievable battle’ the Charter was finally endorsed by the Federation of Labour, the Labour Party and the PSA.
Three years of tireless campaigning and lobbying were necessary to reach formal endorsement of a Charter, working New Zealand women could refer to so as to enhance their working life, career aspirations and autonomy. More than thirty years later women are still grappling with many of the same issues showing the Charter’s relevance for the past and for the future.