In a move that signals a new era for the union movement, the Southern Local Government Officers’ Union (SLGOU) and the PSA will officially merge on 1 April 2015. Working Life spoke to SLGOU President Paul Cottam about what the merger means for our members and for union representation within local government and the wider public service.
What do you see as the main benefits of this merger?
I think everyone in the union movement understands the importance of working together – and that’s what this merger is all about. It joins together two unions that already had good track records in collective bargaining and a strong public service ethos. Together, I think all of our members will see benefits in terms of advocacy and support.
Can you discuss some of the specific strengths SLGOU members will bring to the PSA?
By the numbers SLGOU’s members will increase the number of PSA members who work in local government by about 25 per cent – from 6000 to 8000. It’s a significant increase and means that members in local government will make up about 10 per cent of the total PSA membership. The merger should ensure we have an even stronger voice for quality services and jobs in local government.
Our members will also bring a regional perspective and will add to the national conversation about the increased pressures that many local authorities are facing. Specifically, many of our members are in Christchurch and are uniquely placed to speak to issues around the recovery and rebuild.
Has the merger been welcomed by SLGOU members?
Yes. The vast majority of our members voted for the merger. It’s a decision our membership actively debated and discussed before taking the vote, so I think the whole executive feels very confident in the outcome.
In some ways, the merger process has felt like a natural progression because of the many common goals the two unions share. Our members are looking forward to continuing to contribute to those goals and receiving the support that a national union can provide.
Do you have any suggestions for the PSA and its current members?
It will be crucial for the PSA to continue to communicate regularly with our members through the transition – not just about the logistics, but also about what it means to be a PSA member and how members can engage. It’s important that our members see that they are an important part of the PSA’s future.
How has the transition been to date?
It has been a positive experience so far. SLGOU’s liaison committees, joint council and staff have really stepped up to make the transition go smoothly. We have also seen great engagement from our members.
The team at the PSA have also been extremely helpful. I would like to particularly thank PSA President Mike Tana who gave SLGOU members such a warm welcome at the 2014 PSA congress. I also want to acknowledge PSA staff, especially Glen Barclay, Warrick Jones, and Angela Watts, who took the time to meet with our executive and members to work through our questions and concerns. A special thanks to SLGOU Secretary Angela Watson for her energy and hard work throughout the process.
A union’s success is based on its members. I am really proud of what we have accomplished through SLGOU over the years and look forward to working alongside PSA members across the country to work together for a better future for all of our members.
This article is from the March 2015 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.