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Introducing Thirza White, your new CPSU Assistant Secretary

WE’RE very happy to announce that the Members who make up the CPSU Council have chosen Thirza White to filled the casual vacancy left by the departure of Mat Johnston after his eleven years of dedicated service to our union.

OUR new Assistant Secretary has worked in a range of union roles in Australia, the UK and Ireland over the past 12 years, but she first joined a union after being approached by the Workplace Delegate when she was working for McDonalds while in high school.

“We were paid penalty rates which I thought was fantastic as it allowed me to balance work and school, so I was more than happy to join up,” Thirza said.

“My first union job was with the West Australian CPSU as part of the traineeship program Organising Works that aimed to get more young people involved in unions, and my first major campaign was with School Support Staff fighting for reclassification and action on workload. Over the years they’d seen their jobs change from Office Receptionists to Office Managers responsible for multimillion dollar budgets, and respect was long overdue.”

When the Howard Government introduced WorkChoices Thirza joined UnionsWA as coordinator of the national ‘Your Rights at Work’ campaign and began three years of wearing orange and working with union members across the state to see WorkChoices torn up and the implementation of the Fair Work Act.

In 2008 Thirza moved to the UK and worked with the Transport Salaried Staff Association representing rail and transport workers.

“I managed a National Organising Team and was responsible for developing industry-based campaign strategies. It was an exciting time as Members took strike action for the first time in their 150 year history in response to London Underground’s restructure that threatened hundreds of jobs and station closures.”

Most recently Thirza worked for the ACTU where she trained Delegates and union staff, worked with unions on strategic planning and campaign development, and worked on high profile events such as the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work and the Weekend Rates campaign to protect penalty rates.

Now she’s looking forward to using her skills and experience to work with CPSU Members and Delegates to defend public sector jobs and services for Tasmanian communities.

“Thousands of jobs have been slashed from Australia’s public sector and we’ve seen an attack on wages and conditions as well as the rise of privatisation, outsourcing and insecure work such as fixed term contracts.

“Building a vision for a society that puts a quality, well-resourced public sector at its core is the challenge we need to meet. When we fight for public sector jobs and conditions we’re also defending the services Tasmanians rely on for a better life. These are big challenges but we do have the ability to think creatively and be more innovative and responsive in the face of such challenges.”

Thirza is passionate about the dangers in the rise of insecure work, with forty percent of Australians now finding themselves in some form of insecure work involving fixed term contracts, casual work or as independent contractors or consultants, making it hard to make plans with their families, secure loans and to build for their retirement.

“Job insecurity makes it difficult to speak out in the workplace, to join a union and to have your say. If you don’t have security at work then rights aren’t much good either. Workers in Hutchinson and Botany Bay were recently sacked by text message, and that’s just not right. We must ensure that public sector workers have jobs they can rely on now and into the future.”

A standout career moment for Thirza was being part of the historic Your Rights at Work campaign and in particular election night 2007.

When the results started to roll in it became clear we were going to see one of the biggest swings in history, and that win was due to work done by thousands of unionists across the country – the conversations they held in their workplaces, schools and homes. It was awe inspiring to be part of it.

“With the Productivity Commission’s attack on penalty rates and push for a new type of enterprise agreements it seems we’re again going to have to show this isn’t what Australians want when it comes to work.” 

Outside work Thirza is busy with two children under three, Ailbe and Arlo, and they’re at the stage where lots of time is spent at museums, play centres and parks, but she also has a guilty secret – a love for UK crime dramas such as Midsomer Murders, much to the annoyance of her husband. She also enjoys travel, the sea and good cheese, and is keen to indulge in all that Tasmania has to offer in those three areas.

Thirza believes unionism is about sticking together, standing together and fighting for each other because very little was given by employers or implemented by governments that wasn’t driven and campaigned for by workers.

“I still get a buzz when I’m at an event and see young workers, retired workers, public sector workers and construction workers standing together fighting for change. It gives me goose bumps every time!

“With public sector job losses, attacks on Medicare and the Federal Government’s attempts to introduce $100 000 degrees strong active unions are as important as ever.”

Every day the CPSU stand ups and fights to protect public services, defend living standards and build a better future for all Tasmanians, and we look forward to doing an even better job with Thirza on the team.


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