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White-collar Radical

Dan Long and the rise of the white-collar unions
Mark Derby
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From 1960 until his sudden death in office in 1976, Dan Long was the most visible face of the Public Service Association (PSA), New Zealand’s largest union. In his dark suit, narrow tie and plastic framed spectacles, Long seemed the epitome of the public servants he represented. In fact, as this lively biography makes clear, his background and political attitudes made him a very unusual leader of this traditionally conservative organisation.

The son of working-class migrants from Ireland, Long was raised a staunch Catholic in the remote Wairarapa railway community of Cross Creek. He and his two brothers were conscientious objectors during WW2, and were held in a series of detention camps. Long then worked as a lawyer in the Ministry of Works, and in 1960 was selected as the PSA’s general secretary (its most senior paid official) in part because of his active support for equal pay for women in the public service.

He led the PSA during its transformation from a gentlemanly professional body into a large, well resourced and highly effective trade union representing every level of public employee from senior departmental managers to night cleaners. Long was also directly instrumental in broadening the range of PSA activities beyond immediate issues of pay and working conditions into the much wider fields of human rights, internationalism and the social revolution of the late 1960s and 70s.

A warm-hearted and gentle family man, Long could also be a formidable negotiator, with a trained lawyer’s grasp of detail. Although a lifelong Catholic and non-aligned leftist of pacifist principles, he nevertheless came to the attention of state security services. This book draws upon their unpublished files to show how public servants in this period suffered a covert purging because of their entirely legal political activities.

Author: Mark Derby
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781877517174
Pages: 300 pp
Published: 2013
Size: 235 x 155 mm

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