The future of work…from the past

The PSA has been concerned about the future of work and its impact on our members for quite some time, as shown by this leaflet from the early 1980s.

New technology and the public sector - a PSA leaflet from the early 1980s

New technology and the public sector - a PSA leaflet from the early 1980s

The leaflet explores the growing use of computers, explaining them to an audience who were starting to see their jobs changing.

“Add a chip to the machine and you give computer powers to the machine. The range of equipment incorporating chips is very wide indeed.”

In the 1970s, huge job losses had occurred thanks to technology, with the leaflet noting that “in the private sector in New Zealand two insurance firms have reduced their typing staff by 66% and 75% respectively”, and warning “Association members must be particularly concerned because the public sector is … faced with job destruction from new technology.”

The PSA was active at the time in confronting the issues raised by new technology. We supported technology to strengthen and improve the public sector, provided that jobs were protected, health and safety was a priority and any productivity benefits were shared with workers.

Alongside other unions, we held a conference in 1980 to examine the impacts of new technologies, and the PSA negotiated an agreement with the State Services Commission and the Broadcasting Corporation about the usage of computer screens.

The nature of work is constantly shifting – how we cope with it though, is up to us.