New bill aims to crush union corruption

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New bill aims to crush union corruption

Fall-out from the Royal Commission into trade unions continues as a new bill is introduced into Parliament.

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The Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash, has introduced a new bill that would criminalise a wide range of workplace conduct by union officials and employer representatives.

“The Royal Commission [into Trade Union Governance and Corruption]… uncovered numerous examples of organisations and officials repeatedly flouting the law, misappropriating union funds, putting their own interests before members and generally failing to meet the basic standards of accountability and governance that members and the community more broadly, should be able to expect from registered organisations,” the explanatory memorandum  to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017 says.

These new provisions would, if enacted, address a number of recommendations made by Commissioner Dyson in his final report. 

“The measures in the Bill also implement the government’s election commitments to effectively deal with registered organisations that are dysfunctional or not serving the interests of their members and to provide that registered organisations’ amalgamations are subject to a public interest test. In addressing these issues, the amendments will combat the culture of lawlessness identified by the Royal Commission and improve the governance of registered organisations,” the explanatory memorandum says. 

Amendments

Senator Cash’s bill would, according to the explanatory memorandum, amend the Fair Work Act to
  • create “prescribed offences” that would automatically disqualify an offender from being an official of a registered organisation
  • allow the Federal Court to stop people who repeatedly are in contempt of court, or who contravene industrial laws, and who are otherwise “not a fit and proper person” from holding office
  • make it an offence when a person continues to act as an official once he or she has been disqualified
  • allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds including corrupt conduct by officials, repeated breaches of industrial law or the taking of “obstructive” unprotected industrial action
  • allow the Federal Court to suspend the rights and privileges of an organisation (or part of it) where officers or member are acting in a manner inconsistent with the rights and privileges of registration
  • expand the grounds on which the Federal Court may order remedial action to deal with governance issues in an organisation 
  • allow the Federal Court to appoint an administrator to an organisation
  • introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisation, which will take into account each organisation's record of compliance with industrial laws
In other, related, news, the Royal Assent has been given to the Corrupting Benefits Bill, which is now an Act of Parliament. 

Further reading

Draft of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017

Explanatory Memorandum 

Senate committee backs Corrupting Benefits Bill

Corrupt HR executives/managers face jail, fines
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