How many employers pay union dues?

It’s been a fun few weeks down at the RC on union governance and corruption.  The two case studies have centred on the AWU and its relationship with two companies: Cleanevent and Winslow Construction.  (Of course, Melham knew, he was involved in the deals.)

Mind you, the AWU is not called Australia’s Worst Union for nothing; it has a long standing reputation as the boss’s union, happy to cave into employers’ demands in exchange for membership numbers.

You have to laugh when Shorten keeps on prattling on about how proud he is that he has stood up for the rights of working men and women through his entire adult life – right.

The issue now is the extent to which these cases are but apples in a large case or the tip of an iceberg?

Answering the question: how many employers pay union dues? is very difficult because neither the union nor the employer is likely to fess up voluntarily.  And of course there is always scope for faux invoices.

I’m pretty sure it is common in small scale construction and building services.

We had an inkling a few years back when the ABS published two series: Trade Union Statistics and Trade Union Members.  The first series was based on returns provided by the unions themselves and the second was based on asking workers whether or not they belonged to a union (I think in their main job, so there could have been some undercounting there).

The gap between the two series was immense, with the trade unions’ statistics showing much higher numbers of union members than the Trade Union Members series.  Of course, the unions could just have lied (and included non-financial members who never resigned) but one explanation is that there are quite a few workers out there who are technically members of trade unions, paid for by employers, but are unaware of this.

The ABS has since discontinued the Trade Union Statistics series, presumably because it thought that the figures were unreliable.

Now some may say that it doesn’t really matter if an employer pays the union dues for its workers.  In fact, it matters a great deal:

  • Standing up for freedom of association must involve the union representing the worker and the worker being prepared to pay for that representation;
  • Once an employer pays the union dues, there will be an expectation of a special deal or services from the union, which will almost always dud the workers.

My advice to the RC would be: keep digging.  The broader case needs to be established.

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30 Responses to How many employers pay union dues?

  1. sabena

    At the very least there should be a signed authority from the worker authorising the employer to make the payment.

  2. Roger

    You have to laugh when Shorten keeps on prattling on about how proud he is that he has stood up for the rights of working men and women through his entire adult life

    Hilarious.

    We can only hope Australia’s Worst Union takes the Australian Liars’ Party down with it.

  3. jupes

    The issue now is the extent to which these cases are but apples in a large case or the tip of an iceberg?

    Who cares?

    Joe Hockey says you need a good job to buy a house.

  4. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Answering the question: how many employers pay union dues? is very difficult because neither the union nor the employer is likely to fess up voluntarily. And of course there is always scope for faux invoices.

    I’m pretty sure it is common in small scale construction and building services.

    Can cite examples where there were half a dozen “open tickets”, paid for by the employer, and issued to anyone who needed a ticket to get onto site.

  5. Rob MW

    Corruption in politics is like water off a duck’s back in this country however, watching the politics of corruption is much more entertaining, not that its exposure will make that much difference.

  6. Rob MW

    Now this is going to take some beating with what little Billy (tits) Shorten gets up to:

    “The Australian can reveal that following that deal in July 2007, the Libermans’ Jagen made a $50,000 donation to left-wing political advocacy group GetUp!…

    At the time of the donation GetUp! was a darling of trade unions…

    Shorten was the immediate predecessor of Melhem as Victoria AWU state secretary [until 2006], and was national secretary of that union between 2001 and 2007.

    He was also a director of GetUp! from 2005 until he legally resigned on March 3, 2007, four months before the group received the $50,000 donation from the Libermans…

    A GetUp! spokesman said the organisation was not aware of any link between Shorten and the donation and directed The Australian to the Liberman family, which has declined to comment.”

  7. Mayan

    There are obvious mutual benefits to a symbiotic relationship between larger firms in certain industries and unions. The unions want the political clout, while the the businesses no doubt see a barrier to entry for smaller firms. No doubt there is some element of buying peace involved, too.

    One should not overestimate the quality of management in this country. A large part of the poor productivity and lack of innovation in this country is due to the quality of management, as shown by its embrace of a relationship with unions, to the detriment of almost everyone else.

  8. thefrollickingmole

    I can give them one straight off the bat.

    LMHU and Australasian correctional management.

    LMHU fought a successful industrial action in court on behalf of ACM against the workers.

  9. stackja

    Banks/shareholders being told? Secret commissions? Where is the oversight?

  10. The issue now is the extent to which these cases are but apples in a large case or the tip of an iceberg?

    Who cares?

    Joe Hockey says you need a good job to buy a house.

    And all Australian sportsmen and women are drug cheats.

    All 13 year old Collingwood supporters are racist scum.

  11. .

    What about MECU, Members Equity Bank and Industry Super Funds and their contractors such as Pulse Communications?

    Smash the state, it is the ALP and it chooses its benefactors and successors, unions which it allows to exist.

  12. .

    thefrollickingmole
    #1707443, posted on June 11, 2015 at 11:52 am
    I can give them one straight off the bat.

    LMHU and Australasian correctional management.

    LMHU fought a successful industrial action in court on behalf of ACM against the workers.

    What a country. Full of cun….

  13. Old School Conservative

    The Independent Teachers Union used to run an annual check of its membership list. That union, at least, seemed to be above board in its number crunching.

  14. .

    What a country. Full of cun….

    What a country…blooming with cun…

  15. JJF

    The only thing certain about all of this no matter how bad the allegations are against Bill, the ABC and Fairfax will either not cover it or give him the benefit of the doubt!!!

    If that was Abbott they would be screaming for days!!!

    Check out Jonathon Greens latest crap on the abc website – Abbott has created this issue about ISIL for pure political gain!!! WTF, did he not see the footage of Aussie kids holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers!!!

  16. Habib

    Make the bastards subject to corporations law, the C&C Act, and taxation. And a RICO type statute wouldn’t go astray either, they’re more of an organised crime issue than the Calabrians, Vietnamese, Chinese and Eastern Europeans combined.

  17. JJF

    definitely agree about RICO!

    Also Campbell had laws in Queensland that forced the union to ballot members before any political campaigning worth more than $10K but he scrapped them when he thought he was on the way out. Bring those in Australia wide!

  18. johanna

    A further tweak on the mutual corruption issue emerged at the TURC. It transpired that the practice between at least one union and employer was for the union to issue invoices described being for OH&S training, but which were actually for union dues for people who didn’t even know they were being signed up. Meanwhile, the company got to claim the alleged OH&S training as a tax deduction.

    One hopes that the ATO is following the proceedings. After the way the rest of the construction industry hung Boral out to dry when they took on the thugs in the CMFEU, they deserve everything they get.

  19. Ant

    This racket appears to be a ‘Double Wammy?’.

    A guy is forced to join a union and pay fees for a service to specifically act in his best interests, in many cases not even knowing about it, while the same union is in cahoots with his employer pocketing his money while working out the best way to shaft him at the same time.

    So, he’s shafted in the fee payment and then double shafted by having his pay docked.

    How long before a bunch of union guys are in jail for fraud?

  20. @SeditionaryI

    When I joined a well known fast food retail chain some years ago the norm was for all new employees to join the relevant union, in-fact, said union was there to carry out sign-ups at induction.

    I do believe that the relationship between said company and said union was: “You let us sign up all your employees, and we’ll let you pay them as little as you want”.

    I believe this because, one, in the year I was at said company no-one even told us who the union representative was, and two, judging by how minimal the union dues were the object was obviously membership, not representation.

    Unions are nothing more than organised crime rings being protected by the fact that they are a quasi arm of government.

  21. Ironing Mike

    Back in the late 90s the Independent Education Union used to hassle me about becoming a member. Typical exchanges went like this:

    IEU – You need to join up because you get the benefit of our negotiations at the expense of your work colleagues.
    Me – Your stinking award prevents me from negotiating for what I think I’m worth.
    IEU – Well, you should at least pay us a “bargaining fee” for the benefit you receive.
    Me – Fine, as long as I don’t have to become a member. Where do I sign?

    Never heard a peep from them ever since.

  22. MareeS

    A case from personal experience: our son belongs to both AWU and CFMEU but pays no dues. He works in the Top End mining and construction sector. Jobs are easier to get but the pay is a bit lower on AWU rates, while there’s a bit more strife and argybargy onCFMEU jobs, but the hourly rate is higher.

    Same work, same skills, different rates, what do you reckon?

  23. mundi

    Some times being a union member, even though you don’t know it, pays off. One building company back in expo 88 went belly up and as a sub contracted labourer and creditor we were basically going to go unpaid.

    But then we found out that they had signed us up as union members – and paid our membership – which had the perk in the contracts of making us the equivalent of direct employees, so we had to be paid out before any other creditors.

  24. old bloke

    Workplace Reform Associations are kosher though, aren’t they?

  25. old bloke

    How do the unions manage the election of officials? Aren’t those elections conducted by the AEC, and if so, surely those “ghost” members would ask why they are receiving ballot papers?

  26. johanna

    Interesting point, old bloke.

    Although in the cases I have heard of, their address is just c/- their employer, so maybe with a nod and a wink on both sides, they never get them.

    Hmmm, ballot tampering – perhaps another avenue of investigation.

  27. AP

    I have been forced to be a member of the CFMEU in 1999/2001. Dues were deducted and paid via the payroll accountant at work, but they were shown on my pay slip. I had absolutely no choice in the matter.

  28. classical_hero

    It’s simple, lets make the playing field the same by getting rid of penalty rates on weekends and public holidays, so that every business gets the same deals.

  29. I do believe that the relationship between said company and said union was: “You let us sign up all your employees, and we’ll let you pay them as little as you want”.

    Sed1: That is how Coles & Woolworth’s operate, and it is why their staff are paid less than IGA staff and staff at smaller/private supermarkets.

  30. Slayer of Memes

    Bull Shitten spent all day yesterday pushing the meme that he had ‘stood up for workers his entire adult life’…..

    … right up until the AWU rant to Fair Work Australia to have the EBA he signed anulled because ‘it wasn’t in the best interests of the members’.

    Expect Bull Shitten to run the ‘young and naive’ defence today, implying he wasn’t an adult until 2007 when he was ‘elected’ to parliament (and that therefore he wasn’t telling porkies…..)

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