Congress 2016 opening speech - Mike Tana, outgoing PSA president

At PSA Congress 2016, our outgoing president, Mike Tana, gave an opening address outlining our successes during his term as the leader of our union.

Outgoing PSA president Mike Tana gives the opening address

Outgoing PSA president Mike Tana gives the opening address

Tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna koutou katoa.

Welcome to Congress 2016! It’s wonderful to see so many of us here, from all parts of our union, the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.

We’re here for two days of discussion, decision making, and planning for the future.

And we’re here in a position of strength, still New Zealand’s largest union, having grown by more than 3000 members since we last gathered in 2014.

In looking out across this room, at our fabulous national museum, I see a number of familiar faces, along with many new attendees.

No matter if this is your first Congress or your tenth, I’m looking forward to hearing your contributions over the coming days.

I would particularly like to welcome those here representing our formal networks, PSA Youth, the Women’s Network, Out@PSA and PSA Pasefika.

This Congress is the first time that our networks have voting rights, and our welcoming them is a sign that we are open to change to ensure the sustainability of our movement.

We also have some visitors here, an indigenous group from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and I warmly welcome you to our Congress.

Lastly, in 2015 we merged with the Southern Local Government Officers Union, making the PSA the national union of people working in local government.

I would like to pay a special tribute to those former-SLGOU members who are here with us today, attending their first Congress as PSA members, and recognise the important work you have done to ease your members successful transition into our shared union.

The theme of this congress is Stand Together Ka tū tahi tātou, which is our campaign promoting the important work that we all do, and making sure that the politicians who decide on our funding value them too.

There’ll be more time to discuss Stand Together over the coming days, including a presentation from our national secretaries Erin Polaczuk and Glenn Barclay and workshops tomorrow where we’ll all get to discuss what we think the PSA should be focusing on.

Over the last two years, we’ve made steady but significant progress on all four of our strategic goals.

I’d like to take this opportunity to touch on them now, though we will go into more detail later today as we discuss the annual report you have all received.

Building Our Union / Hāngaia i to tatou Uniana is the first of our four strategic goals.

Thanks to our 3000 delegates, including all of you here today, we’re growing as a union, and we have done for eight of the last ten years.

Alongside our membership growth, our redeveloped delegate training programme is helping to give our delegates the skills they need to strengthen the PSA in our workplaces.

More than 900 delegates attending one of our courses in the past year, held in 15 cities and towns from Whangarei to Invercargill.

Our union is only as strong as the people who have joined together to make it thrive, and what these numbers tell me is that we know how to build our union membership, which will give us the power to achieve our other three goals.

The next of our goals is our strategic industrial agenda, Tranforming our Workplaces / Whakahoungia te Wāhi Mahi.

Here’s where one of our biggest wins in the last couple of years sits, the In-Between Travel Agreement we negotiated with the Government and the employers of home support workers.

I’m so proud of the work done by our members, delegates, and staff.

I’d like to pay particular gratitude to PSA executive board member and Christchurch home support worker Jenny Goodman, who took the legal case that sparked the negotiations for this agreement.

This agreement has meant more security of hours and more money in the pockets of those working in this low-paid, predominantly female sector, who support our elderly and disabled citizens to live more full lives.

It has also shown that even in an unfriendly political environment, people can stand together to win real gains, when we unite for a common cause.

As the union of 62,000 people providing public and community services across the country, we also take our responsibility to advocate for improving those services seriously.

Because of this, we’ve made Advocating for strong, innovative and effective public and community services / Ratonga Hapori Tūmatanui Kaha another of our strategic goals.

Last month, we brought international expert David Coates to New Zealand to speak with HR practitioners, public service managers, political parties and unions about the importance of high-engagement ways of working, like our Sustainable Work Systems model.

Our high-engagement work continues to bring benefits to our members and the services we provide to the public in workplaces as diverse as Bay of Plenty DHB, the Department of Conservation and Auckland Council.

And in the health sector, we’ve consistently raised the harm done by understaffing on both patients and staff, demanding quality care every day.

Our fourth strategic goal is one I want to focus on a little closer, and that is Equal pay / Utu ōrite.

In many ways, the progress we have made in this area is one of the things I am most proud of our union for.

More than 70 percent of our membership are women, and the difference in women’s and men’s pay is a key issue that, when we resolve it, will make a huge and positive difference to most of our members’ lives.

Thousands of our members have been active on the issue of equal pay over the last two years. We’ve attended events, signed petitions, lobbied MPs, taken legal cases and pushed equal pay claims in collective bargaining.

Alongside our friends in other unions and civil society, we’ve made equal pay an issue that is talked about, and cared about, right across our country, and we’ve made it something that politicians can’t ignore.

This year, we’ve been negotiating with the Government and employers to find a way forward that doesn’t involve dozens of court cases.

We know that if we can resolve equal pay in collective bargaining, then that will produce results that work for us without having to engage in lengthy, and costly, legal processes.

The PSA was represented in a group chaired by our new Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy along with representatives from other unions, business and government, and we reached consensus on a set of principles and a process to resolve equal pay claims through bargaining.

Of course, ensuring equal pay requires money, and for our members that means the Government needs to front up – whether as a direct employer for our public service, DHB and state sector members, or as a contractor for our community public services members – with the funding to make equal pay a reality.

That means we need to keep the pressure on, and we need to make sure equal pay is a key election issue.

More than 750 of us have signed up to be equal pay advocates in our Worth 100% campaign, but we need more.

If you aren’t already an equal pay advocate, please sign up – you can do this on the PSA website, or by phoning our Organising Centre.

f you’re already an advocate, thank you, and please recruit a colleague when you go back to your workplace after this Congress.

Together, we can loudly declare: women are worth 100%, and we can make that statement into reality for not just our members, but all working women across New Zealand.

Making a better working life for all is the real core of what we do, and why we’re all here today.

I’m deeply proud of our union, and all that we continue to achieve.

It has been a genuine privilege for me to lead our collective work over the past four years, and it is an experience I will treasure for the rest of my life.

To all those hundreds of PSA delegates and thousands of PSA members I have stood alongside, spoken to, planned with, laughed with, and cried with, I want to thank you.

I want to particularly thank a couple of people. When they first said to me, who do you want to thank? I thought everybody! But there are a couple of people I want to thank, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here.

One is Liz Byron. Liz has been my rock. I just wanted to personally thank Liz for her support and her patience over the last few years.

The other one is Dave Nendick. He is my work colleague at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Dave was our delegate at MPI, though it was MAF when I first joined, and he encouraged me to become a delegate.

I said no way jose, why would I do that? Then I found out we had a very strong Rūnanga, and I thought, now I'm interested! They challenged me to play the guitar for them, and the rest is history.

So I just want to thank both of you from the bottom of my heart, for helping to make these last four years so wonderful, it has been a blast to be a part of this amazing movement. It is the highlight of my life.

To our four candidates for president, I wish you all the very best of luck.

I know that no matter who is successful in tomorrow’s vote, you all will continue to contribute hugely to our union in the coming years.

To everyone here, I look forward to spending the next two days with you.

I hope you leave tomorrow afternoon refreshed and energised to go back to your workplace and continue to work for a better working life for everyone.

Na reira. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa.

Outgoing PSA president Mike Tana says farewell to Congress 2016

Outgoing PSA president Mike Tana says farewell to Congress 2016