State of the Nation


The PSA is currently putting together advice for the new Government on the key issues for our members. Working Life caught up with PSA national secretaries Erin Polaczuk and Glenn Barclay to discuss their priorities and plans during this process.

State of the Nation ErinState of the Nation Glenn

Which sectors of the PSA do you look after?

ERIN: I focus on the DHB sector, parts of the public and state sectors and the CPS sector.

GLENN: I have oversight of the local government sector and Erin and I share that role for the public service and state sectors.

What are members in those sectors telling you the biggest issues are for them at present?

ERIN: DHB sector members are telling us that the cumulative underfunding in the system is really hurting them, whether through overtime requests, work intensification, the impact of unfilled vacancies, or difficulties at the bargaining table. In the public service, there are issues around work culture, intensification, the effect of the housing crisis, and the failure of wages to keep up with costs. Members in the state and public sectors are also keen to ensure we get to bargain pay and address their performance pay systems.

GLENN: The narrow-minded amendments to the Local Government Act such as the loss of the ‘four well-beings’, and the imposition of commissioners in Environment Canterbury. Members are interested in promoting the Living Wage in local government, getting pay into collective agreements and challenging the terrible performance pay systems in the sector.

Thinking in terms of the first hundred days, what should be the most pressing issues for the Government to address in each of the sectors you oversee?

GLENN: Better employment law will support improvements in bargaining across all sectors. In local government I would like the Government to tell local authorities that they intend to change the purpose of local government in the Local Government Act, which some councils have treated as an impediment to the payment of the Living Wage. I am looking forward to the Living Wage being paid in the public service too.

ERIN: Bringing the equal pay Joint Working Group back together to give the Government further advice on progressing equal pay is necessary. An amendment to the 1972 Act needs to give effect to the equal pay principles agreed in the tripartite Joint Working Group and make positive fixes to the Act. In the public sector, MECA bargaining could begin, union-only benefits could be allowed, the cap on staffing levels and low settlement parameters could be lifted, and bargaining fees could be included in collective greements without any legislative changes. Decisions to contract out could be put through a more rigorous process, including the need to look at the social, environmental and financial implications of such decisions.

Longer term, what’s your vision for what each sector could look like?

ERIN: I’m excited by the DHBs’ interest in developing a ‘high performance / high engagement' strategy and would like to see the sector well-resourced, fully-staffed, with workers having more say over the day-to-day aspects of their work; providing safe, speedy and reliable healthcare for citizens. Included in this would be a fully functioning mental health system, with a plan in place for the recruitment, retention and ongoing training of workers.

GLENN: I want this Government to be an exemplar employer that actively promotes collective bargaining, with a restored sense of the public service as a single entity, and a common set of values and purposes. As part of that, we need common terms and conditions across the public service to support career mobility and ensure fairness, and a true recognition of Te Tiriti that supports the employment needs of Māori. Local government needs greater recognition by central government and a better sense of its own constitutional place.