New Zealand’s most militant major union, the National Distribution Union has hired one of the country’s most militant unionists as its new Wellington regional secretary.
“Born into a working-class family” in Timaru, Maxine Gay (formerly Duggan, formerly Goldsack) started her working life as clerical worker in a textile factory in Napier.
She was first attracted to unionism when she heard Sonya Davies, then with the Clerical Workers Union. Gay worked for YWCA as a programme director and protested against the Vietnam War and the ’81 Springbok Tour. She was also active active in the feminist movement, Women’s Refuge, the Battered Women’s “movement” and “anti-racism“.
However, according to the Christchurch Press of 18/12/97 “It became increasingly apparent to me that I was ever picking up the bits at the bottom of the cliff. So I made a conscious decision to get into class issues rather than just gender or race.”
During the ’80s, Maxine Goldsack was reputedly a member of the Maoist leaning Workers Communist League, while working as Manawatu Organiser of the Clerical Workers Union.
Goldsack’s partner was (and is, Robert Reid, long time international secretary of the WCL and one of NZ’s leading Maoist radicals). In 1990, Reid and Goldsack’s Palmerston North phone number was a contact for the Philippines Solidarity Network and Left Currents, the shortlived revamp of the WCL, which had dissolved that year.
In late 1989, Goldsack travelled with Reid to Tokyo and Osaka, as part of a 9 person NZ delegation to attend a “workers conference“.
The conference was actually highly significant. It was the launch of the “People’s Plan for the 21st Century.”
Launched as the Soviet Bloc teetered, PP21 coordinated dozens of NGO’s and “peoples organisations” across South Asia and the Pacific. The grouping was unusual because it united Maoist leaning organisations with organisations known to be influenced by the Soviets-even the KGB.
In October 1989 Goldsack co-wrote with Robert Reid and George Talbot a double page article on PP21 “Pacific Century or Japanese Century?”, in the pro-Soviet, Socialist Unity Party’s “Tribune” newspaper.
PP21 was active in NZ, through the Peoples Assembly/Peoples Network and the Building Our Own Futures project, a network of former WCL Maoists and Marxist “Christians“.
On November 19, Maxine Gay spoke, with former WCL member and Peoples Network activist, Sue Bradford at a “Building for Real Political Change“, run by the Campaign for People’s Sovereignty at the WEA Centre in Cristhurch.
Gay spoke as a member of “People’s Plan for the 21st Century” (an Asia-Pacific organisation she described as similar to the “Campaign for People’s Sovereignty“.
Local PP21 activists worked to unite the formerly Maoist and radical Christian left into a series of organisations powerful enough to challenge Labour and its tame union allies.
By 1993, Gay was secretary of the Trade Union Federation, a leftist breakaway from the Council of Trade Unions. She was also on the National organising group of the Peoples Assembly/Buililding Our Own Futures movement, the leadership body of NZ’s PP21 aligned organisations.
Another offshoot of the PP21 project was the Next Step Democracy Movement. Active in 1993/94, the NSDM wrote up six leftist petitions and tried to gather enough signatures to try and force binding referenda on the government. Gay served on the leadership body of the NSDM, but “sadly” the required number of signatures was not treached and the movement failed.
Like her partner Robert Reid, Gay became very active in the anti Globalisation movement in the mid ’90s. She was heavily involved in the anti APEC movement and in July 96 helped organise the NZ tour of Mexican Anti Free Trade activist Dr A V Calderon.
In June 1999, Gay served on the organising committee of the Women’s Conference Against APEC in Wellington. Other committee members included;
Leigh Cookson (CORSO, GATT Watchdog) Bronwyn Cross (PPTA), Caroline Hatt (Peoples Network, UNITE union), Prue Hyman (feminist “economist”), Tanja Shutz (NZUSA co- president), Luci Highfield (Service Workers Union legal officer, Wellington Working Womens Resource Centre), Jane Kelsey (Auckland law lecturer), Annie Newman Service Workers Union-supporter of Filipino communist front unions), Christina Rizos (Radical Society, ex NZUSA), Gillian Southey (GATT Watchdog, CAFCA), Tali Williams (UNITE, Engineers Union)
In 2001, Gay’s anti globalisation commitments took her to Switzerland.
Maxine Gay, President of the New Zealand Trade Union Federation has her arm in plaster after breaking her wrist during the anti-World Economic Forum activities in Davos Switzerland. She and other anti-WEF activists were forced by police to take a treacherous route back to their guest house in the icy sub-zero conditions rather than the well lit and ice free main road. Maxine slipped and broke her wrist in the fall.
Since 2001 Gay has also been a trustee of Christchurch based anti-globalisation organisation ARENA, with Robert Reid, Peter Cranney, Joe Davies, Jane Kelsey, Gillian Southey, Nick McBride and Prue Hyman.
The Philippines revolution has also been a major focus for Gay, through her longstanding membership of the Philippines Solidarity Network Aotearoa.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno is the Philippines’ largest trade union federation and is widely regarded as a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Gay has helped to organise two NZ tours by KMU leaders-Crispin Beltran in 1999 and KMU vice chair Emilia Dapulang in 2002.
Gay also has had a an influence on NZ’s mental health servives in recent years. She has served on several mental health advisory bodies, most recently with the
“Improving Mental Health 2005-2015: The Second New Zealand Mental Health and Addiction Plan”
Gay was for several years secretary of the Wellington Clothing and Laundry Workers Union.
Her new job should give her far more scope for revolutionary activity.