PSU election challenge in Tasmania


By Dave Wright

Hobart — The Independent Reform Group will stand candidates for all official Public Sector Union positions in the November PSU Tasmanian branch elections.

The IRG will be campaigning particularly against what it calls "Robson's three 'A's". Peter Robson is the national secretary of the PSU, and the three "A"s are agency bargaining, amalgamation with state public service unions and ALP affiliation.

The IRG is also campaigning for a child-care centre, a better wages deal, greater union consultation, opposition to forced involuntary redundancies and better implementation of Equal Employment Opportunity policy.

Only two tickets are running. The other ticket, led by Austra Maddox of the ALP, supports the national leadership's "A"s.

IRG candidates Ray Kemp and Mark Swift spoke to Green Left Weekly about the campaign.

"Independent Reform says a lot about our aims. 'Independent' because the union at the moment is being directed by ACTU and Labor Party policies. The push for affiliation with the ALP is ridiculous, because the Labor Party is our employer. What union affiliates to its employer?

"It is also implementing anti-labour movement policies; it is beyond redemption. We need to be independent of the Labor parliamentary machine", Kemp said.

Both Kemp and Swift stressed the need to democratise the union. They emphasised the need for the branch leadership to play more of a workplace networking role in order to build a good information flow to members. The current leadership, they say, is building networks at the Labor Council and ACTU level.

They are opposed to agency bargaining because of the huge differences in industrial muscle between agencies. "Unity is strength, and agency bargaining is divisive, destructive and debilitating to the aims and principles of unionism", Swift said.

IRG argues that amalgamation with state public service unions will lead to a large union bureaucracy which will be less democratic for all members. In Tasmania, affiliation would give control of the new union to the Tasmanian Public Service Association. The right-wing TPSA has done next to nothing recently as hundreds of state public servants have been sacked.

Kemp said, "There should be a balance between the geographic [state-based] branches and the national office, rather than national office herding branches and members into line. We do not support the downgrading of branches to 'service centres' without representation, as in current restructure proposals. We see branch processes as fundamental to PSU democracy."