Progressive PSA candidates have beaten incumbent officials in the union elections in the Public Service Association (PSA) in NSW. The public sector has been in the firing line of NSW Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell, with thousands of job losses and cuts to conditions. The Progressives’ victories are a boost to the chances of more serious union action against O’Farrell.

The Progressive PSA won the position of General Secretary and will also control the union’s Central Council. The remaining six officerbearer positions were retained by the incumbent officials.

Anne Gardiner, who will now hold the General Secretary position, told Solidarity,

“We ran a ticket that reflected the broad public sector and the members recognised that. There hasn’t been a public servant in the position of General Secretary for nearly ten years now.

The Progressive PSA has won union elections in a clear victory for the left

Under the old officials there has been a lack of members’ involvement and the union failed to fight the O’Farrell government’s 2.5 per cent pay cap, “The important work of public servants hadn’t been actively promoted in a positive way by the PSA”, Anne said.

“The membership was feeling disconnected from the union. We’ll be focused on transparency and accountability and ensuring that members know what’s going on.”

The challenge for the new team in the union will be reviving the union campaign against the state Liberals’ attack on working conditions. Around 3000 PSA members joined a stopwork meeting in central Sydney on October 8, as well as others at venues across the state.

As well as 15,000 job cuts, public sector workers are facing changes to awards, stripping conditions like annual leave loadings and allowances for staff working in remote areas.

“I think the fact that our conditions are under threat might have made people think they wanted a union that understood the importance of these conditions, particularly because in 2008 as part of the pay deal we did lose conditions,” Anne said.

The challenge now is to rebuild a union capable of beating back the Liberal state government.

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