Farrar’s published what he calls an ‘internal union email’ about the PSA and the SFWU’s decision not to amalgamate. Considering it was sent out to 70,000 people more than a week ago I wouldn’t get too excited.
The amalgamation talks always struck me as an odd idea. The organising cultures and the membership profiles of the two unions could not be more different, nor could could their approach to political involvement. It’s not, as Farrar tries to spin it, about getting MPs elected to Parliament.
What it comes down to is union strategy on political campaigning. For the SFWU political campaigns are a necessity due to the fact a large portion of their membership (particularly in the health sector, aged care and cleaning) have no bargaining power outside their collective strength and are reliant either directly or indirectly on government funding for their pay rises. This is why they’re affilated with Labour, recently signed an MoU with the Greens and are currently in talks with the Maori Party.
Their strategy is heavily influenced by the US-based Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has successfully married industrial and political campaigning to lift the conditions of some of the lowest paid workers in the United States. Problem is, you need some serious size and resources to emulate the SEIU model, and the PSA was never going to go down this route.
The PSA has made a strategic decision to remain non-partisan because a lot of their members have to work closely with the Government of the day, and that’s fair enough. But it was this difference of approach that caused both sides to realise that their strategies were simply incompatible. I’m just amazed it took them this long.