Union democracy restored - Public Service Association

Union democracy restored

On 10 December 2007, a motion was put on notice to Central Council, the governing body of the PSA, to radically change the union’s internal election process and also to allow officials to use PSA resources to back political parties and candidates.

The change proposed to the internal election system was to move the Central Council elections from proportional representation to a “winner-takes-all” system.

The motion on notice had to lay on the table for 60 days before it could be voted on at the February 2008 meeting of Central Council. It was clear to me and a small group of other Central Councillors these significant changes to the way our union operated were going to be voted on without the knowledge of the membership.

Despite being the Christmas period, those of us who opposed the proposed rules change and the secrecy surrounding it, commenced a campaign.

We wrote to the Industrial Registrar to express our concerns and we put together a petition alerting members to the issues and asking them to call on the Central Councillors not to vote for the rules change.

Some of you may remember signing the petition.

Prior to the February 2008 meeting, we presented the petition with more than 400 signatures.

Unfortunately, the vote went through and because it had been done in accordance with the rules the Industrial Registrar had to approve it.

On 4 March 2008 The Australian newspaper reported on the rules change with the headline “PSA scraps ‘political’ rule”.

In 2012 I ran for the position of PSA General Secretary and I was also the lead candidate on a Central Council ticket.

Because of the change to the voting system (introduced in 2008) from proportional representation to winner take all, once a Central Council ticket got 50 percent plus one vote, all candidates on the ticket were elected – excluding executive candidates.

Despite being the beneficiaries of this winner take all system, the current Central Council and I understood that this way of voting was not the way to build a strong, inclusive union.

We were also keenly aware that members did not want their funds or resources being used for party-political purposes.

At the November 2014 Central Council meeting I moved two motions.

One was to restore the prohibition against using members’ funds and resources for party political purposes and the other was to return to a proportional representation method of voting for Central Council elections.

Both motions were passed by Central Council.

In May this year the PSA received approval from the Industrial Registrar for the rules change.

This is a great result for PSA members. It’s also encouraging to note that if you disagree with something even if it takes seven years, it is worth keeping up the fight.

On another note, I just wanted to say that I will be taking extended leave for three months from this week.

During my absence Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner will be acting as General Secretary.

I am confident that Steve and our fabulous PSA staff will continue to strive to meet your needs in what is a very demanding environment for members.

In unity


Anne Gardiner

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