High vote for PSU Challenge

June 22, 1994

By Steve Rogers

CANBERRA — Public Sector Union National Challenge activists contesting national elections gained over one third of the vote in the recently completed ballot count. The incumbent Wendy Caird and Peter Robson team is congratulating itself on its re-election, but the strong alternative vote shows many union members are concerned about the union's direction.

With a voter turnout of around 30%, PSU National Challenge gained 35 to 40% for Peggy Trompf, Tony Longland and Maree Roberts running for president, secretary and senior deputy president. The campaign was run on a budget less than a quarter of that used by the incumbents. In addition, the union journal gave repeated publicity to the incumbent candidates.

In Queensland, the ACT and Tasmania, PSU National Challenge scored 40-50% of the votes. In the ACT, PSU National Challenge candidate Bronwyn Taylor was the clear preferred candidate for deputy national president.

For the national incumbents, the ACT vote was far from pleasing. ACT PSU members actively voted against the Caird and Robson Team candidate Celia Pollard, preferring both Bronwyn Taylor, who topped the poll, and another incumbent team candidate from Victoria. As Taylor and Pollard are both full-time branch assistant secretaries and were elected from the PSU Challenge and Alliance teams respectively last November, this vote was seen as a measure of support for the two teams since then.

National PSU leaders have refused to accept the defeat of their supporters in last year's ACT ballot. From their perspective, it is just a matter of time before they retake the branch. Prior to her recent poor ballot performance, Pollard had been groomed as the future branch candidate for secretary.

A number of incumbent team candidates, including Peter Robson, Wendy Caird and SA state secretary Margaret Sexton, spent time campaigning in the ACT. In addition, the PSU national executive and national secretary Peter Robson made a media show of intervening in the ACT branch in the middle of the campaign.

While the national attempt to take over ACT local government agency bargaining was unanimously rejected by delegates and members, ACT branch activists were forced to cope with the interference and therefore prevented from campaigning around the elections.

While played down during the campaign, the program of the Caird and Robson Team includes the following:

  • Continued progress towards agency bargains which, in every case to date, have traded off jobs.

  • Growing threats to fundamental working conditions, such as the move towards an increased working week for sections of the Department of Primary Industry and Energy and its associated authorities.

  • Further privatisation of public sector jobs, extending from Defence and Veterans Affairs to Tax, Department of Employment, Education and Training and others.

  • Within the newly formed Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), major restructuring to reduce the power of members in branches such as ACT and Queensland to fight against the loss of jobs and conditions.

  • A likely return to the agenda of the incumbents' long wished for affiliation to the ALP.

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