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Key reneges on PSA promise

Written By: - Date published: 2:13 pm, November 17th, 2008 - 24 comments
Categories: national/act government, public services, spin, workers' rights - Tags:

Well, just days after a high profile meeting with PSA head Brenda Pilott and a promise to engage with unions John Key has decided to exclude the PSA from his Task Force on the future of the public sector.

The National/ACT government will instead appoint private sector consultants and private sector chairs to review government spending and the future of PSA members’ jobs, with the results likely to recommend major cutbacks and privatisation as they did in the ’80s and ’90s.

The PSA’s Brenda Pilott is not impressed:

“We are disappointed that Mr Key has now announced that the private sector will be represented and will chair these Task Forces, reviewing government spending, but the voice of 57,000 public sector workers is at this point excluded.”

Brenda Pilott says she is writing to Mr Key stating that she expects him to follow through with the indication given that the PSA would be included in the review of government spending.

“Mr Key talks of running an inclusive government but his actions in this area do not match his words,” says Brenda Pilott.

Pilott is right to be annoyed. She and her union were used by John Key as a PR opportunity to present himself as inclusive, centrist and non-threatening to workers, then as soon as the media moved on they were dropped and shut out of the process.

This kind of cynical behaviour might work in opposition, but when you’re government it doesn’t pay to needlessly make enemies – they have a nasty habit of coming back to bite you later on.

24 comments on “Key reneges on PSA promise ”

  1. Chess Player 1

    “This kind of cynical behaviour might work in opposition, but when you’re government it doesn’t pay to needlessly make enemies – they have a nasty habit of coming back to bite you later on.”

    Um, were they not enemies already?

  2. Tane 2

    No, for all the flailing of the Kiwiblog Right, the PSA is strictly non-partisan. It doesn’t donate money or resources of any kind to any political party.

    Obviously as a union, particularly one in the public sector, they have concerns about National’s policies, but everything I’ve seen suggests they were keen to engage in good faith. I mean, their entire ethos (not that I agree with it) is social partnership with the government of the day.

    See this press release, ‘ PSA welcomes John Key’s spirit of engagement’

  3. Chess Player 3

    Fair enough….

  4. insider 4

    Brenda might be reaping what she sowed prior to the election, speaking of needlessly making enemies. If she wants to play party politics, as she did, then don’t be surprised if she is not picked by the winning team she opposed.


    It’s fine to quote a release from last week but take a look at the last few months

    “Job losses at AgResearch taste of what’s to come?”
    The PSA says job cuts at AgResearch a taste of what’s to come if we have tax cuts the country can’t afford.

    “PSA asks New Zealanders to consider cost of tax cuts”

    “Which services will National cut to pay for tax cuts? ”

    “National offers workers less job security and the chance to sell their holidays ”

    “National gets it wrong on public services ”

    “PSA says everyone will lose if National gets the chance to privatise ACC”

    Not one mention of Labour’s tax cut policy….Non -aligned. Yeah right.

  5. relic 5

    The right campaigned continuously following the 05 election and unions are going to have to do the same. ‘The mass of the peoples thinking tends to lag behind changes in events’ goes an old political truism.

    The current lovefest for the Nats, (Naori? Mational, Nact?) will likely run a few months before reality bites with a lot of kiwis. They got their change in leader and a whole lot more.

  6. higherstandard 6

    Cough cough …….The PSA is strictly non – partisan…… well it might have been some time ago, but not in recent times.


    [Tane: They stand for policies that help their members, and against policies that harm them. National’s policies on work rights and public services run directly contrary to the interests of PSA members, so the PSA responds to those policies on an issue-by-issue basis. Campaigning on your members’ issues is not the same as being partisan.]

  7. Tane 7

    Insider, I haven’t seen the PSA engage in any party politics. They’ve run up public services as an issue as any good union should, but never have I seen them encourage people to vote or not vote for certain parties.

    Anyway, I thought John Key was all about being inclusive and casting away the legacy of what he called the ‘vindictive’ Labour government?

    edit: also, I’d add, Key seemed happy to involve the PSA a few days ago. What changed?

  8. Janet 8

    What does the private sector know about the ethic of public service?

    It is OK getting private sector auditors in to audit the accounts of schools and others who are using public money. But that is because auditors know about auditing accounts. They don’t know about education, pedagogy or other aspects of teaching and learning, and don’t need to, to do this kind of audit. But Key is talking about something much more than this type of oversight.

    Getting private sector consultants on huge remuneration packages to assess public services is just crazy. They don’t even speak the same language.

    On the other hand will public servants also be able to sit on a task force on the private sector? Some of the big corporations could learn a bit about public service ethics.

  9. higherstandard 9

    Tane get real the PSA has become progressively more partisan over time.

  10. Anita 10


    Really? I would’ve argued that the PSA has become progressively more compromised by its attempts to demonstrate non-partisan-ness and its unwillingness to fight SSC for the rights of public servants to be partisan in their private capacity/time.

  11. Tane 11

    HS, if National attacks their members’ interests they have a duty as a union to respond. That doesn’t mean they’re partisan pro-Labour or anti-National.

    And like Anita says, if anything they’re overly cautious in their attempts not to appear partisan.

  12. insider 12


    yet the PSA were practically missing in action when Labour was caught interfering in the decision making of ministries and the trashing of civil servants’ reputations…

    Hypothetical changes by one party sees press releases issued whereas actual corruption of the traditions of civil service independence are practically ignored when it’s done by the party of the workers. Just the same way you guys turned a blind eye to Winston, because the ends justified the means.

  13. Anita 13


    I’m not one of the guys you think I am.

    But y’know, feel free to accuse me of all manner of stuff 🙂

  14. Tane 14

    insider, I recall the PSA commenting on the Setchell and various other affairs at the time. It’s also worth noting that the increases in press releases recently was in connection with the general election, where National was promising to screw over their members.

    I’m not going to defend everything the PSA has done – I’m actually quite a critic of theirs – but one thing they’re certainly not is a partisan pro-Labour union.

    In any case, it doesn’t explain away Key’s decision to meet with them, grab the photo op, them dump them a few days later.

  15. Scribe 15

    It’s also worth noting that the increases in press releases recently was in connection with the general election, where National was promising to screw over their members.

    What were those promises exactly?

  16. insider 16

    Sorry Anita, the reference to you was re your comment on their efforts to be non partisan.


    I did a search and could not find any statements from the PSA as condemnatory of Labour’s actual interventions as their condemnations of their imaginings of what National might do. I recall they spoke out but it was pretty tame stuff for an organisation that supposedly cares about professional standards and integrity of the civil service. All those special deals Labour cut for PSA members must have had an impact eh?

    Nor did they condemn Labour’s tax cut plans with anything like the vehemence – no press release titled “Which services will Labour cut to pay for tax cuts?” for instance. I would have thought election time was the time for them to be squeaky clean in terms of the balance of their engagement, given that is a core responsibility for their members.

  17. Tripod 17

    It also kind of demonstrates the futility of “partnership” unionism that the PSA espouses.

    I don’t really like the idea of a few top union officials meeting with National MPs, where were the delegates?

  18. randal 18

    It seems as if Keys thinks government is just a series of “DEALS”
    hmmmmm he has got a few things to find out
    everybody rolled over in the 80’s and nineties but this time it is going to be a much tougher row to hoe
    about time he earned all that money he took off the rbnz speculating in the nz currency
    clawback anyone?

  19. TBA 19

    “PSA is strictly non-partisan”

    As an ex PSA Delegate for Work ad Income that comment nearly made me wet myself with laughter Tane.

    I was told at my delegate training (just before the 2005 election) to make sure we advised our members that to a vote for labour was the only way to make sure we didn’t return to situation where the case loads were so high that staff were expected to work the entire day.

    BTW regardless of the political nature of the comment it was just plain dumb as my colleagues were all working the arses off at the time to get good outcomes for their clients.

  20. Glenn 20

    As a state sector employee with first hand exposure to what PSA stands for, I know that the very suggestion that it is “non-partisan” is absolutely hilarious. And more importantly, false.

    I also note that the article in that link offers no substantiation of the claim that key “promised” PSA anything, but The Standard is happy to accuse him of reneging on a promise. What’s up, wasn’t PSA partisan enough?

  21. QoT 21

    @TBA: That’s funny, I was at the exact same meeting and I remember that guy saying “Neep neep neep woooooooooooooooooo-bong.”

    Oh darnit, that’s the whole Internet anonymity/anecdata fallacy playing up. I don’t mean to call you a liar, but seriously, your argument is “I, an anonymous poster, state my personal experience.”?

  22. Fusster 22

    Read the November 2008 PSA Journal: “Election 08 what does it mean for your job?” and tell me the PSA is non partisan. Read Page 13. Comments like “others are proposing steps back, like a Fire at Will bill…” are highly emotive. Can’t even use the proper term for it. The whole Journal that month is designed for people to vote for Labour/Green/Progressive etc…

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