What I don’t understand about this truly amazing story is why employers would be making regular contributions to the TWU slush fund.
And then the officials of the TWU would use monies from the slush fund to influence the outcome of elections in other unions.
Truly amazing stuff.
On the first point, if the regulatory system is working well, there is absolutely no reason why employers should feel compelled to contribute to this unaccountable slush fund. Unprotected industrial action is unlawful under the Fair Work Act. Alternatively, the fact that employers do contribute – them being weak bastards aside – suggests that the union is engaged in regular threatening behaviour to disrupt work operations.
A thorough Royal Commission is really needed to examine the conduct and governance of registered trade unions. The new body that the Coalition is proposing will have all the power of wet lettuce.
The Transport Workers’ Union has admitted it used money from a political slush fund controlled by its leadership to support favoured candidates in internal elections for at least three other unions that have a strategic presence in the aviation industry.
TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon confirmed on Thursday that money from an entity known as the The McLean Forum Ltd contributed to internal elections in the Flight Attendants Association of Australia in 2012 and the Health Services Union’s NSW branch.
The union said that about $45,000 was contributed to the FAAA elections and around $65,000 to the HSU election.
Mr Sheldon denied that any money from the TWU was used in the elections because funds for the McLean Forum came from weekly contributions by union officers and employers.
He said the forum included a “political action committee” which conducted legitimate campaigns in the same way as the mining industry and the free-market Nicholls Society, which were essential parts of the democratic process.
Mr Sheldon will send a message to its members on Friday saying that he was “angry and disappointed” at recent cases where leaders in “government, companies and unions indulge in excess, greed and dishonesty”.
“It makes me both angry and disappointed . . . I’m sure you feel the same,” the message said.
The most recent report filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for the McClean Forum said it had net assets of almost $402,000 in the year ended June 2010. It reported a net profit of about $336,000 that year.
In July, the Fair Work Commission queried whether the TWU had contributed money to support the re-election of a team headed by the secretary of the FAA’s domestic division, Jo-Ann Davidson, and to the “Intregrity Team” which challenged the incumbent leaders of the international division.
The team headed by Ms Davidson was re-elected but the so-called Integrity team did not win control of the international division.
Mr Sheldon said he was proud to support a team led by Gerard Hayes in the recent HSU elections, to clean up the fight and fight the O’Farrell government.
A delegate for the Commission’s general manager, Chris Enright, said he had not started a formal inquiry or investigation but wanted to “clarify the circumstances surrounding any direct or indirect contributions” made by the TWU.
In reply, the TWU’s assistant national secretary Michael Kaine, said in a letter dated September 26 that certain TWU employees gave “strategic and logistical support” in both FAAA elections but the TWU had not made any loans, grants or donations in either campaign.
Mr Kaine argued that the support was authorised under the TWU’s rules, which allowed it to work with other unions to protect the interests of aviation workers.
“The TWU also considers that it is in the interest of TWU members to have stable, effective leadership of all aviation unions,” he said.
The union conceded that TWU employees, including aviation campaign co-ordinator Matthew Rocks, gave advice in the FAAA campaigns, and organised campaign websites, printing and distribution of election material.
It said that some invoices from suppliers were directed to the TWU, but the union was later reimbursed.
The Abbott government plans to establish a special body to monitor registered industrial organisations, which include union and employer groups, after the financial scandals which emerged within parts of the Health Services Union and dealings involving the Australian Workers Union in the early 1990s.
The TWU argues its national committee of management had appointed consultants Matrix on Board – which specialises in not-for-profit groups – to review the union’s financial policies in late 2012 and would make six-monthly updates.
The review covered areas such as financial training, budgeting, and approvals for expenditure on credit cards, fuel cards and cab charges.
Other unions have conducted similar reviews ahead of the tougher scrutiny of unions by the Abbott government.
In 2008, a report commission by the TWU from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu found that an alleged internal slush fund, which received about $2.5 million in contributions from employers, had no governance arrangements or financial management processes.
The union overhauled its governance, including incorporating the fund that had received contributions from 39 employers over a period of 5 ½ years.
The report into a fund operated by the union’s NSW branch – the Transport Industry Training Education and Industrial Rights Council – found that levies based on 1 per cent of an employer’s payroll were paid under workplace agreements and under common law deeds.