Campaigning for Change
In just over three months’ time, New Zealanders will be going to the ballot boxes, but it already feels like the political parties have swung into campaign mode.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen precious little of what actually matters to most PSA members so far.
We’ve been saying it since the launch of the Stand Together campaign in 2016. New Zealand needs well-resourced, properly funded public and community services. They’re the ties that bind us, and the net that catches us when we fall.
Our members are the heart of New Zealand. You’re the glue that holds communities together when times are tough. You’re the lifeguards who watch our kids while they swim, the librarians who do far more than just issue books.
You’re the people who mend our roads, who make sure our food’s safe to eat, who protect our precious natural environment. But your jobs are becoming harder to do, because funding hasn’t kept pace with the demands of your work.
This election, we want public and community services to be a central issue. We want to see them not only well-funded and resourced, but cherished and celebrated as the very heart of Aotearoa New Zealand. We want to make sure that whoever is in government after September 23 will listen to us – because we've spread our message far and wide. The cuts need to stop – and the compassion restored.
Stand Together’s moving into the next phase of its campaigning – and here’s where you come in.
The Three 'A's
We know a lot of you want to get more active in this campaign – but not everyone can dedicate the same amount of time and energy. We want everyone to realise that even if you can only do a little, that’s a lot.
Our three types of Stand Together campaigners will be Amplifiers, who’ll like and share social media posts, and sign our online pledge; Advocates, who’ll sign up to have political conversations with friends and whānau, and attend candidate meetings; and Activists, who’ll organise events and lobby MPs face to face. Each will be supported by the PSA with materials and other resources.
Stand Together will also hold regional get-togethers where delegates, members and their friends and family can come along, hear more about the campaign and meet their fellow enthusiasts. They’ll take part in political conversations, work out what they’re comfortable with doing and saying and come away armed with plenty of ideas and the tools for action. You can contact your delegate if you’d be interested in hearing more (or even hosting an event!)
Anita Tang is an expert in people power. Her work involves unlocking the potential of grassroots supporters for NGOs, and she’s a big fan of this kind of activism.
“It’s important to offer a low-barrier entry point, because it means more people can get involved,” she told Working Life over the phone from Sydney. “People can start at the level at which they first feel comfortable. Then, once people have taken one action, you can help them do something at the next level. So if someone has been an amplifier, how do you engage them in becoming an advocate?"
Anita believes the key to all this is relationships, which is a crucial part of campaigning.
“A lot of it is about the value people get from being part of a larger effort and being with like-minded people who are looking to do the same thing. Campaign organisers need to create opportunities for people to act together in interdependent ways, so they get that buzz from being part of a group and form enduring relationships with each other. People come together for the issues, and they stay for the friendships.”
Alongside the ground campaign, there is a “broadcast” element to Stand Together.
Our Local Heroes will be the starting point. Throughout the past 18 months, members like you have been telling us their stories about their work and home lives. You're the face of public and community services – reminding New Zealanders every day that our members aren’t faceless bureaucrats, but people who really care about the jobs they do and the communities they live in.
Our research shows this is a vital part of our campaign. It’s easy for the public to forget about the wide variety of jobs our members do, largely because you do them so well.
We’ll be gathering together the stories of our Local Heroes and producing a book which we’ll distribute widely and give to our members as a resource to take with them when they meet MPs and other influential people.
The Political Campaign – the PSA’s priorities
While our members and supporters raise awareness, there’ll be sustained lobbying going on in Wellington and all over the country.
The PSA has two sets of election asks. One’s a set of detailed policies which we’ll ask political parties to respond to – and the next issue of Working Life will include their responses.
Then there’s our bottom lines. These aren’t the nice-to-haves – they’re the number one priorities around public sector pay and conditions, equal pay and health funding. National Secretaries Glenn Barclay and Erin Polaczuk have already met all the parties to discuss our members' election priorities, and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to do the same before September.
One thing to note, though: we’ll be prepared to acknowledge good policy where we see it, regardless of who’s promoting it.
“If there are particular policy issues, whatever party agrees to fix the problem should be congratulated," says Anita Tang.
"There might be an assumption that one type of party is more likely to do that, but all parties should get the opportunity to step up and make the commitment. You need to recognise and publicly applaud parties that have made the commitment. And once they have, you need to ask other parties to support it too.”
Can we fix it? Yes we can
The PSA has 63,000 members. Every single one of you has family, friends and colleagues who you can talk to about what we’re doing, and what we believe in. If every union member in this country encouraged another person to vote for strong, well-funded public and community services, that’d be a bloc of 600,000 people. We’ve got power. The politicians know that, and we’ll make sure we remind them of it.
Here’s Owen Wrangle, field organising expert, from the Council of Trade Unions: “I have no doubt the union movement will play a large part in this election. Unions are one of the biggest social groups in New Zealand – you’ve got churches, sports clubs and unions. Relative to any other institution, unions are enormously powerful. They will influence policy and the outcome of the election. Right now, the best thing those institutions can do is return to taking bigger and bolder stances. Be less concerned about how things might play. Don’t hedge on what you stand for.”
PSA members' political priorities
Our number one priority as a union is improving the wages and working conditions of our members. We’re asking all political parties to stand together with workers who deliver critical public and community services. These are the absolute minimum we expect – and we’ll highlight the parties who don’t agree to them.
1. Public and community sector pay rises
The National government says there should be a gap between public service and private sector wages. This has meant little to no pay increases for public servants over the past decade. This demoralises our members and undermines the strength of the public service.
We want: a signal to public and state sector CEOs that pay rises are needed, and adequate funding to public and state sector agencies to allow this to occur. This will need to be enough to cover pay rises for outsourced community services.
2. Equal pay
Proposed equal pay legislation does not match the recent care and support workers' settlement, or the Joint Working Group’s recommendations. It’s a backward step for equal pay. We need a commitment to immediately repeal the new bill if it’s passed in its current form.
In addition to this, we want funding for pay equity settlements in the state and community sector. The PSA’s progressing existing claims for Oranga Tamariki social workers and DHB admin-clerical staff, as well as mental health support workers. We also have a case against the State Services Commission covering all public service workers. We expect a new government to agree in principle to support and fund any successful equal pay claims in the state and community sectors.
3. Health funding and mental health funding
We expect a new government to reinstate health funding to 2008/2009 levels as a proportion of GDP, and restoration of the health funding shortfalls. We also want a commitment to ongoing funding that covers increases in wages, salaries and other costs, and demographic pressures. We also require that any new government opposes any profit incentive for the private provision of mental health services.
4. Moving towards common terms and conditions across the public sector
The current system - where each government agency bargains individually - is inefficient and unfair. A coordinated approach to bargaining would restore a career public service and allow for greater movement between agencies. Our expectation is that a new government would promote this approach.
What type of Stand Together campaigner are you?
1. Your friends say about you:
A) “They’re always on Facebook”
B) “There’d be no work morning teas without them”
C) “Every time I see protests on TV, I see them”
2. In your spare time, you like to:
A) Chill out with your Twitter feed and a cup of tea
B) Get together with your friends for a catch-up
C) Organise fund-raisers for your local sports club
3. At the 2014 election, you:
A) Made sure you used the right hashtag
B) Reminded your friends and family to vote
C) Waved placards at candidate meetings
4. Your campaigning hero is:
A) The #BlackLivesMatter founders
B) The Loyal/Red socks campaign
C) Helen Kelly
5. What’s in your campaigning kit?
A) Lots of data on your phone
B) Clipboard and PSA badge
Mostly (A)? You’re an Amplifier
Amplifiers help get Stand Together material seen on social media.
Your likes, shares and retweets will help expose a huge number of people to our Local Heroes
and our campaign messages.
Mostly (B)? You’re an Advocate
You like getting up close and personal with people, and encouraging them to support your causes. Using your skills and with our resources, you’ll help build relationships and promote Stand Together.
Mostly (C)? You’re an Activist
You’re comfortable using your voice and organising events, small and large. Why not organise a Stand Together action in your area - a candidate evening, a barbecue, whatever works. We’ll send you some sausages, you provide the sizzle.
You can view more from this issue of Working Life here.