​Bosses back plan to bust 'corrupt' union deals


​Bosses back plan to bust 'corrupt' union deals

Employers have welcomed the Turnbull government's push to criminalise corrupt payments to unions


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Leading employer groups, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Ai Group, have welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal to introduce a new, so-called, Corrupt Benefits Bill to Parliament.

If enacted,  corrupt payments by business to union officials would be criminalised under a single, nationwide law.

Right to criminalise corrupt payments

James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber, said: “The business community welcomes the government’s actions on corrupting payments, which follows a strong recommendation on the issue from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

“The government is right to seek to criminalise payments or other benefits passed between employers and unions that could have a corrupting influence. The Royal Commission found widespread misconduct by union officials, so we need to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations to improve governance.

“Given clear evidence that a minority of union officials have acted to advantage themselves over their members, changes to the law need to be made to enhance the responsibility of union officials and employers. Financial misconduct and the misappropriation of union funds by union officials must be addressed.” 

Careful drafting needed

Meanwhile, also commenting was Ai Group CEO, Innes Wilcox, who argued it was “beyond contention” that new laws are need to address “inappropriate” revenue flows to unions and union officials. 

"It is important that any 'corrupting benefit' laws are carefully drafted to avoid capturing various day to day 'benefits' that an employer may provide to a union delegate or official," Mr Wilcox said, pointing out it could be possible that relatively trivial incidental benefits, such as the provision of lunch during enterprise bargaining negotiations could, potentially, be caught. 

However, he added, it was “vital” that new laws address union revenue sources such as the distribution of surpluses to unions by worker entitlement funds, such as construction industry redundancy funds which, Mr Wilcox argued, should be for the benefit of employees.

He also took issue with the payment of “large, inappropriate,” commissions to unions from insurance companies that he alleged “offer substandard income protection at a grossly inflated price”. 

Mr Wilcox alleged that unions “misuse” enterprise bargaining laws to “coerce” employers to purchase these products even though there are cheaper, better products on the open market. 

“In such cases, unions are benefiting at the expense of both employers and employees,” Mr Wilcox asserted. 

WorkplaceInfo sought input from the Australian Council of Trade Unions but it declined to comment. 

Disclosure: WorkplaceInfo is owned by the NSW Business Chamber, a state-based business-representative organisation, which is a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
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