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Pam Parks wins Women’s Day award

CONGRATULATIONS to long time CPSU activist Pam Parks on her Unions Tasmania International Women’s Day Award.
The former CPSU President and union member for over 40 years was presented with her award last week after the CPSU’s nomination for her tireless work supporting workers in the union movement, work that continues as a core part of our Retired Members group.
We chatted to Pam about her union involvement, which began on the other side of the world.
I started in the union movement in 1973 in Lee County, Florida where I was a Speech Pathologist in schools and a National Education Association member,” Pam said. “I joined up the first year of work – I’ve been in the union ever since.”
A number of achievements stick out in Pam’s memory from that time.
“One win was that we no longer had to explore the schools anymore for bombs. Back then we used to get a lot of bomb threats, especially around exam time, so they’d close the school, everyone else would walk out and we’d have to check for bombs. So we got rid of that, which was great.
“Another achievement we won for staff was our sick leave bank. That was really good because if you were really sick or needing to have an operation and you were going to be out 10 days, which was your sick leave, the bank allowed you to take up to two months from the bank, where everyone had to chip in one day.”
Pam also received some union training from an unlikely source, which proved useful in her working life. “When I trained at Central Michigan University, which was a teacher’s college, part of our final semester in the fourth year was negotiating a contract with your employer. They trained us in how to do that in the University, which you don’t see. They broke the class up into employees and the employer and we had to role play and negotiate the whole contract.”  Entering the workforce and joining the union, this training came in handy as Pam and other workers in schools needed to negotiate their own contracts.
When Pam moved to Tasmania in 1988 the first thing she did was join the CPSU as she understood the benefits of membership and what could be achieved through the collective strength of a union. “Although I thought a lot of the conditions were better here than the States, lots of sick leave and long service leave, there were still other issues. We did a lot of work with award structures here and bullying, which is still a problem.”
As well as a long term Member, Pam was CPSU President for four years, a role she said was fun as well as challenging. “It was voluntary, so it takes up a big part of your life on top of a fulltime job. There were some issues that came up that were really difficult but the teamwork was so good and the staff as well.
“I think the CPSU is a wonderful union, they’ve done so much. It’s an uphill battle all the time, first to get people to realise what the CPSU does and to stay with it but they’d have no idea where they’d be if they didn’t have their union.”
Pam’s still active in the union movement despite retiring, and works with others to help produce a bulletin for CPSU Retired Members.
“Someone said to me “why are you still a Member if you’re retired?” I said “well it doesn’t cost very much, there’s a retired Members fee once a year plus you’re giving that little bit of support.” It’s great to get the newsletters and see what’s going on; I’m still interested to find out.”
With Pam, you certainly can’t take the unions out of the worker. “My brother’s in the car industry in the States and he’s in the Auto Workers’ Union. We both still share information about unions and fight with people about why they should be in a union.”
Congratulations to Pam on her award – she’s worked hard for Members and the union movement over the past 41 years – and it’s well deserved.

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