David Thorp served as PSA president from 1978 to 82. He joined the Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Transport as a cadet, and began his career with the PSA at the representative level. He attended the first education sessions in the late ‘60s, got onto the National Executive, and served as president and simultaneously as chair of the CSU.
He spearheaded the PSA confrontation with the government over house rents which led to the electricity stand off of 1979. He thereby earned a reputation as leading from the front in the interests of members. Ironically, he was appointed to the first Electricorp board 1986-1990. Having been made redundant from the Airways Corporation in 1990, he was appointed General Secretary of the PSA in 1991, shortly after the passage of the Employment Contracts Act. The radical changes to the employment environment generated by the legislation of the ‘80s, then the ECA, forced enormous changes on the PSA. David Thorpe was a key figure in the implementation of these changes. He left in 1999 as the new constitution and secretariat took the PSA into a new era.
"I think my biggest contribution was holding the organisation together and trying to lead it into the new reality. But also the development of the thinking around what the union was. It was no longer about a charismatic elected leader - it was about what we could achieve for members through our advocacy and our organisation, for example reinforcement of the delegate in the workplace... I suppose things like that were the trappings of the new democratic union. "
The State and the Union - An Oral History of the PSA from 1984 to 2012, by Mary Ellen O'Connor.