Stan Rodger

Stan Rodger began his public service career in the Ministry of Works and Development in Dunedin. Moving to Wellington in the 1960s, he was elected onto the PSA national council and served as president in 1970–73. Later he became assistant general secretary in charge of the recently established research and publicity unit before entering Parliament as MP for Dunedin North in 1978.

He will be forever associated with the reforming Labour Government 1984–90 in which he held the critical State Services portfolio, bulldozing through the controversial State Sector Act 1988. This so irked the PSA that they stripped him of his life membership (though it was restored in 2004).

"At the time I became Minister of State Services, I felt that there were some grave inefficiencies in the state sector and that the whole system needed an overhaul. I decided to advocate for the establishment of a consultative committee with representatives from the state unions, Treasury and the State Services Commission. Everyone acknowledged that there were many problems with current arrangements. Treasury vehemently opposed the consultation, saying the state unions couldn’t be trusted. The SSC probably shared that view but couldn’t say so because I was their Minister. I said they were the most intelligent section of the union movement and we got it through.

I felt that if unions, employers and Treasury all agreed, any bill would have an easy time through Parliament. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the state unions. Barry Tucker was on the committee for the PSA at the beginning, then he was succeeded by Colin Clark. That was a critical change, in my view. Barry had a very good feel for what was happening in the broader scheme of things, Clark was very alarmed by the quantum of change. Colin Hicks and Ron Burgess represented the CSU, Margaret Bazley and Dave Swallow the SSC, and Jas McKenzie the Treasury, though he was soon replaced by Bernie Galvin.

The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) got tougher and tougher and the state unions finally walked away from the consultation. I think that tactically that was a gigantic error and they probably weren’t aware of my determination to proceed. The stakes were high because I had invested a lot of political goodwill in getting this consultation committee past my cabinet colleagues. I was left with a commitment for a report to be issued. By this time [the more hard-line] Rod Deane had replaced Mervyn Probine as chair of the SSC. We just had to go ahead with drafting legislation. The state unions had had their opportunity."

The State and the Union - An Oral History of the PSA from 1984 to 2012, by Mary Ellen O'Connor.

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