“Freeloading” workers don’t deserve perks

What a complete disgrace this rort is.  Building employers are forced to pay ‘redundancy’ payments on behalf of all workers (in excess of $100 per worker per week) which are then paid into a fund; in the case of Queensland, the fund is called BERT – the Building Employees Redundancy Trust.  But it turns out that you have to be a member of the CFMEU to receive any benefits (cash handouts, dental and medical coverage, child care, etc. ) from the trust.

Even though, there are management representatives on the board,  the management and the union officials get their way on all important decisions.

But when it came to handing money over to striking workers (at the new Brisbane Children’s Hospital site), BERT may have gone too far.  It is an offence under the Fair Work Act for strike pay to be paid, at least by employers.  On the face of it, it would seem that BERT also overstepped its mandate, something of which at least one of the employer reps on the board was aware (he was overruled).

But don’t you just love the idea that workers who are simply exercising freedom of association by not joining the union (the CFMEU) are freeloading?  What this guy means is that the thuggish CFMEU can only operate as a destructive monopoly if everyone signs up and does as they are told – and this applies to employers as well.

If prosecutions do not follow from the Royal Commission, it will tell us a lot about the police and the prosecuting authorities.  We already know that the ACCC is just a gutless outfit with its refusal to act in the Boral case.  And APRA fits into this category, with its complete inaction about the leaking by Cbus of confidential contact information about some of the superannuation members to the CFMEU.

Here is the newspaper piece:

WORKERS who don’t belong to unions are “freeloaders” and do not deserve the same hard-fought benefits from industry funds as unionists, a senior CFMEU official says.

Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union national vice-president Michael Ravbar has rejected claims that multi-million-dollar redundancy and welfare funds were unfair because funeral, childcare, dental and travel-­insurance payments went only to paid-up trade union members.

“I’m not going to give any freeloader who is a non-unionist those benefits,” Mr Ravbar told the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption yesterday.

The royal commission is investigating allegations of criminal extortion, threats and bans of major construction companies by the CFMEU’s powerful Queensland branch, led by Mr Ravbar.

It is also probing the workings of the Building Employees Redundancy Trust, of which Mr Ravbar is a union-nominated director.

Employers pay their employees’ redundancy entitlements — up to $90 a week — into the fund, which was set up in the late 1980s.

All workers can make a claim if they are made redundant, but only union members can access the extra perks. CFMEU Queensland and Northern Territory branch secretary Mr Ravbar said the system was fair because unions had fought hard for those benefits decades ago.

After he had spent nearly two days in the commission’s witness box, the CFMEU said Mr Ravbar had comprehensively rejected every allegation of wrongdoing, skulduggery and criminality that had been made against him and the union by several disgruntled construction bosses.

Albert Smith, from Universal Cranes, told the Brisbane hearing that Mr Ravbar and the union had threatened and tried to extort him after he refused to sign a union deal that required he pay into the trust.

Mr Smith alleged that the union then threatened his clients, and Universal Cranes was banned from major projects’ building sites across the state, until he had caved in.

Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC, said if Mr Smith’s allegations were accepted, Mr Ravbar and other senior officials could face criminal extortion charges, which carry a maximum 14 years in jail if proven.

Mr Ravbar denied the claims and launched a ferocious attack on Mr Smith’s character and business tactics, describing him as a lying rogue who tried to buy industrial peace from the union with “blood money”.

“I know it’s easy to blame the union for certain things, but the achilles heel for Albert was that he never complied with (industry standards),” Mr Ravbar said. “Albert’s not very good at telling the truth — it is not a forte of his.”

Outside court, CFMEU construction and general national secretary Dave Noonan said that the extortion claims had a “snowflake’s chance in hell … of surviving any proper legal process”.

“There is nothing left, not a shred of evidence of any of the alleg­ations that counsel assisting led with,” Mr Noonan said.

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21 Responses to “Freeloading” workers don’t deserve perks

  1. Greigoz

    I wouldn’t hold my breath for the Libs to do anything. They’ll be fully focussed on their arm-wrestle with this Moby Dick sized Paid Parental Leave scheme right up until the next election – whereby, it’ll be the anchor that drags back into the depths of Opposition.

  2. Roger

    Even though, there are management representatives on the board, the management and the union officials get their way on all important decisions.

    Judith, I think you meant to write ‘Even though there are management representatives on the board, the union officials get their way on all important decisions.’

    The union leader’s attitude doesn’t surprise me, but I do wonder why the QLD police haven’t been more proactive with surveillance and sting operations against the likes of the CFMEU officials. Rumours of this sort of activity in the building industry have been circulating in Brisbane for years.

  3. Judith Sloan

    Management of BERT I meant.

  4. .

    This little scamola is as cherished as the “Industry Super Funds” the unions run to benefit their pet projects and family owned consultancies…

  5. stackja

    Did not the BLF run such schemes under Gallagher?

  6. Ant

    With my Italian heritage I sometimes get asked about the Mafia, believe it or not. My parents were from the north where Cosa Nostra, Ndrangheta, etc, are as foreign as cous cous, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

    Anyhow, I love being asked about it these days because my country is blessed to have the CFMEU, AMU, HSU and FU right here in our backyards.

    And it’s home grown!

  7. .

    “Oh so you are Australian? Do you live in fear of the Painters & Dockers or whichever organised crime racket Australian unions are running as your patriotic de facto mob?”

  8. M Ryutin

    Ant August 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm
    Your mob senses are spot-on Ant, because nothing in all the TURC revelations (and the HSU/AWU before them) ring true in anything than the all-too-true organized labour/mafia connection of the USA. There is nothing to suggest that the industry superannuation funds are the slightest bit more honest than the ones in the USA were when financing mafia casino investments to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, albeit that in this case many millions probably invested in alternate energy projects subsidised by a tame ALP government are a little different, the principle is the same – a fraud on honest members.

    The corruption of the government institutions (ACCC/FWA) mirrors the USA under the crooked, Chicago-led Obama white house, with its Holder DOJ, supine FBI and IRS running amok.

    But the USA or Italian mob are the best candidates for an appropriate analogy right now (as for the government under ALP, it is a little like the drug-baron controlled Colombia of Escobar and Co days)

  9. Wolf

    I’m happy to call non-union members freeloaders and say they don’t get any benefits that unions obtain. Extend that to IR protections in general. But if that’s going to be the case then it’s going to have to be permissible for Employers to avoid employing people on the basis of their union affiliation.

    Let’s do that and see what the long term effect is on union membership.

  10. rickw

    Italy has the Mafia, Australia has the CFMEU

    The business models are pretty much identical.

  11. manalive

    Mr Ravbar had comprehensively rejected every allegation of wrongdoing, skulduggery and criminality that had been made against him and the union by several disgruntled construction bosses …

    Mr Stoljar seemed to be increasingly testy as his direct questions to Mr Ravbar concerning his actions and instructions were usually answered in the passive voice, or when in the active voice, the active agent was expressed as the collective “we”.

  12. JC

    At least the Mafia aren’t being dishonest about wanting to help da workers against the man.

  13. Luke

    Let’s see. Go after union corruption which will bring down some big property developers as well. Developers who would already be thinking about which party they are going to throw their money behind next election. Or spend your time making Hollywood’s legal wish list happen and bring in the political donations for doing so.

    Which one do you think this government and it’s AG will spend it’s time pursuing?

  14. Robert Crew

    So Michael Ravbar believes it’s OK for non-union members to be paid $100 per week less in benefits than union members. That would be a huge incentive for employers to bypass the union entirely. Someone should remind Ravbar that it’s the unions themselves that insist non-union workers get the same entitlements, so that employers have less incentive to hire non-union labour.

  15. Craig Mc

    My niece is good friends with a aspiring tax-payer parasite who currently works for a union, and is seeking to get into the ALP hierarchy, without ever soiling his hands with a real job. Just like all the others.

    “So, he’s moving from organised crime to disorganised crime then?”.

  16. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    I have the utter mortification to report that one of my siblings was a fully paid up member of the CFMEU. Listening to him sprouting the union line was agony to the ear drums.

    Probably explains why I haven’t spoken to him for five years.

  17. tomix

    Some construction jobsites in Qld have B.u.s.s. [Super] and B.e.r.t. [redundancy]. A Bert account will be opened whether the worker is a union member or not. Last time I was on one of these sites the Bert was worth $13/day. It’s probably ca. $20 now.
    When moving to a site without those conditions, payment of the Bert was obtained by declaring that I was leaving the industry [ or retiring from the workforce]. I’ve done it a few times.

    The Buss is a bigger problem because there is no choice of fund, and there is a co- payment[$119.00/week in 2006] and now probably much higher. Fees are savage in the BUSS, if not transferred to another fund, the balance doesn’t last long.
    Reading the quarterly glossy union magazine is an eye opener. The sexist jokes stopped appearing a few years ago, but every issue has a fair number of names of members who have died in the last quarter.
    Aged between ca. 25 and 45. Cause of death never mentioned.

  18. Tel

    But if that’s going to be the case then it’s going to have to be permissible for Employers to avoid employing people on the basis of their union affiliation.

    I’d argue there’s ways employers can reduce the exposure to unionists in ways that are legal and difficult to litigate against. Hiring recent immigrants would be the most obvious.

  19. Tel

    At least the Mafia aren’t being dishonest about wanting to help da workers against the man.

    Well now that you mention it…

    Labor unions provide a rich source for organized criminal groups to exploit: their pension, welfare, and health funds. There are approximately 75,000 union locals in the U.S., and many of them maintain their own benefit funds. In the mid-1980s, the Teamsters controlled more than 1,000 funds with total assets of more than $9 billion.

    Labor racketeers attempt to control health, welfare, and pension plans by offering “sweetheart” contracts, peaceful labor relations, and relaxed work rules to companies, or by rigging union elections.

    Labor law violations occur primarily in large cities with both a strong industrial base and strong labor unions, like New York, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia. These cities also have a large presence of organized crime figures.

    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/organizedcrime/italian_mafia

  20. tomix

    But it turns out that you have to be a member of the CFMEU to receive any benefits (cash handouts, dental and medical coverage, child care, etc. ) from the trust.

    I think the BERT covers everyone on site apart from management. CFMEU members wouldn’t have any rights to claim that BLF, ETU, Plumbers Union [etc.] members don’t.

    It is interesting that the unions involved in the Children’s Hospital strike didn’t levy members on other Qld sites to fund strike pay.
    Maybe only a chosen few got paid out of the BERT.

  21. Steve

    The BERT fund was founded by building trade unions and if you are receiving payments of up to $90 per week as the article suggests you will most definitely be employed under a trade union eba . Is it not immoral to accept the benefits and conditions fought and won for by a unionised workforce when yourself do not support such cause?
    The BUSSQ and CBUS scheme were also founded by trade unions and as per every qld CFMEU eba an employer does not have to pay into these funds yet they are the preferred funds.
    These funds are obviously preferred as they are industry super funds, but BUSSQ and CBUS make it very easy for unions to check employer compliance with payments of super contributions and you are kidding yourself if you believe employers don’t try to skip super payments.

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