Glenn Barclay - Our new national secretary

Glenn Barclay was recently appointed to lead the PSA as our new national secretary, alongside fellow national secretary Erin Polaczuk.

glenn smallNew PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay

Can you tell us a bit about your family and where you grew up?

I was brought up in Auckland, the youngest of 3 boys. I studied at Auckland University but Michele and I shifted to Wellington where we have now lived for around 30 years. We raised our 3 adult children here – two are still at university and the oldest is a partner in a design business.

My Dad was an electrician – a returned serviceman who ran his own business for a while and my Mum was a WAF [Women in the Air Force] during the war and after that mixed raising us boys with various part-time jobs. I am the only one of my siblings still in New Zealand, with both my brothers having lived overseas for many years.

You have been with the PSA for 12 years working in the policy team. What are you most proud of from that time?

It is great to work for a union that has a genuinely strategic approach and I am proud of the role the policy team has played in help develop that. I am proud of my involvement in the establishment of the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme in 2004 which returned a meaningful retirement savings scheme to the public service for the first time after the closure of the Government Superannuation Fund and our work on KiwiSaver.

I am also proud of my work in health and safety in recent years.

Within the PSA, you are known for your depth of knowledge about health and safety – how do you think we can improve on New Zealand’s poor record?

I did our submissions to the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy in support of the role played by our members, the mines inspectors, and that really opened my eyes to the systemic flaws in the regulatory regime. The new Health and Safety at Work Act will go a long way towards fixing that regime, but the government really dropped the ball on worker participation.

The direct involvement of workers in preventing and responding to health and safety issues is essential if we are going to do something meaningful about our record. It will be down to workers and our unions to not allow this legislative weakness to hamper an effective worker voice on health and safety.

What do you see as the role of trade unions in modern society, and why is it important to you?

Within our members’ workplaces we are there to help even up the power imbalance they face with their employers and to create workplaces that are fair, just and great places to work. Unions are learning new ways of doing this as our very effective campaigning and legal work on equal pay is demonstrating.

At a political level, unions provide a counterweight to the power of capital and corporations – we are essential for an effective democracy. In the case of the PSA, there is also the very special relationship we have with government as the largest union in the state sector and the union for the public service.

We have a particularly important role in defending the rights of public servants to have a political life as citizens, and doing what we can to protect them from political criticism and abuse.

As you join the PSA leadership team, what are some of your priorities?

First of all, it is to help provide some stability during a time of significant change. We have lost two amazing leaders in just over a year with the departures of Brenda [Pilott] and Richard [Wagstaff], and I think there is a need initially to just make sure we are shipshape as we push forward on equal pay, respond to the agenda for a smaller weaker government, and deal with the cumulative effects of underfunding. Our members are working under increasing pressure and the union has to be there for them.

Beyond that, I want to prioritise the Transforming our Workplaces agenda. It is great to be able to promote better jobs and new ways of working and not just be reactive to the initiatives of employers and the government, but we have to take the lead.

In your spare time, you are a musician – can you tell us about your passion for music, and what else you like to do in your spare time?

Music has always played a huge role for me. Like most other people, music has been the soundtrack to my life and a great way to be transported away from day-to-day concerns. I also play guitar and mandolin, although not so much these days as I would like. I have been in various bands over the years – mainly folk and alt-country – which have usually only averaged about one gig a year, but which have been enormous amounts of fun.

Outside of that, I enjoy cinema, working around the house and garden, and I am an avid Liverpool FC fan – “you’ll never walk alone”.