By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — Tony Longland is contesting Branch Executive and National Council positions in Public Sector Union elections in Victoria in November.
Longland, employed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, has opposed the union's direction since joining in 1985. Since then, according to Tony, opposition groups have fractured and proved ineffective against the "Progressive Caucus", as the current leadership misleadingly call themselves.
"For example, the International Socialists are strong in the union but don't stand for elections. The PSU Action Group are the opposite; they run in elections but do little in between."
Longland believes in a combination of regular activity around issues and a real challenge to the leadership at elections. "These two actions can build each other; they are not counterposed", he said.
Longland has concluded through discussion with many activists that it is time to bring more focus to opposition action.
A central plank of Longland's platform is opposition to agency bargaining, which he sees as the biggest issue facing the public service. As the Melbourne mass meeting on October 18 (where Tony put the case against agency bargaining) showed, it is possible to defeat the officials' agenda.
Job security is also a key issue which he will be taking up.
Tony sees the opening up of the democratic processes in the union as fundamental. He believes that all information should be provided to members by those qualified to give it. This contrasts with the practice of the PSU leadership in the case of the proposed amalgamation with the State Public Services Federation: there the No case was written by those in favour of the amalgamation.
"The union must provide the opposition voices with a forum", he says."That is a basic democratic principle. At the moment opposing views are stifled."
Another problem which Longland believes must be addressed is highlighted by the fact that not all PSU members can vote together. "That's the result of artificial divisions being set up to look after the interests of the officials who amalgamated their unions with the PSU."
If he wins, Longland may be a lone progressive voice on Branch Executive, and he has no illusions about what can be achieved on that body. "I would see my role as similar to what Don Chipp said of the Democrats — Keep the bastards honest."
He is more hopeful that on National Council there will be more support, since other opposition forces, such as PSU Challenge in the ACT, are contesting positions on that body. "But in the end it's not so much what I can do on these bodies, but how I can help further the organisation of rank-and-file members."
To help out with the campaign or discuss the issues with Tony Longland, ring him on (03) 284 6144.