Celebration of Bob MacDonell’s life

We are saddened by the passing on Bob MacDonnell. He was a part of our union family as a member, delegate, activist and organiser for 37 years.

Bob Macdonell

Bob Macdonell (left) at his retirement from the PSA in 1997.

Bob worked for the PSA in the 1970s and 80s when our membership size was pretty much the same as it is now, but the number of PSA staff was much smaller.

In that sense Bob was the “fix-it” guy, the person who looked after the detail, crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. Bob was not the charismatic leader with the great speeches and all the vision stuff. But it was Bob who translated the big picture into actions. Actions that organised workers, resolved members’ problems, brought resolution for union members, and improved the lives of working people.

Bob was an extremely conscientious person and a great stickler for detail. His advocacy for members was legendary and he fought for their rights tenaciously. Bob was cunning and knew how to play the system on behalf of his members.

The Central Districts generated two of the big disputes of the Muldoon era – New Plymouth Power Station and the meat inspectors’ heat dispute which germinated in Whakatu in the Hawke’s Bay. These events are lost in history now, but back then they involved thousands of workers and brought about real confrontation. While others provided the public image and appeared on the TV, it was Bob who, behind the scenes, did the paperwork, helped the families of the strikers to get provisions, wrote up the depositions of the members for the various court cases. These were big victories for the PSA, for our members, and for the union movement, and Bob was toiling away in the engine room of those victories.

He did not just do a job. He was passionate and committed. He understood he was part of the union movement, had a keen sense of justice and all he did was intended to better the lot of working people.

Excerpts from Bob’s eulogy by John Shennan