Senate passes bill targeting unions

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Senate passes bill targeting unions

The Senate has passed controversial new legislation controlling how unions are governed.

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Crossbench senators Xenophon, Hinch, Hanson, Leyonhjelm and others passed the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 last night.

The bill establishes a new Registered Organisations Commission to oversee unions and employer groups, with enforcement powers.

Officials from registered organisations will be subjected to similar standards as company directors under corporations law, including reporting, disclosure and penalties.

Among other things, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 will:
  • establish an independent watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission
  • amend the requirements on officers’ disclosure of material personal interests and change grounds for disqualification and ineligibility for office
  • strengthen existing financial accounting, disclosure and transparency obligations, making them enforceable as civil remedy provisions
  • increase civil penalties and introduce criminal offences for serious breaches of officers’ duties
  • introduce higher civil penalties and a range of criminal penalties for organisations and officials – civil penalties will range from $18,000 to $216,000 for individuals and up to $1,080,000 for a body corporate
  • Criminal penalties for reckless or intentional dishonest breaches of an officers duties of up to $360,000 or five years' imprisonment or both.
Reaction has been, predictably, divided with union-affiliated groups condemning and employer-affiliated groups announcing support.

“A new Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), to be established by laws which passed with Senate support last night, is a welcome development that is long overdue particularly for the building and construction industry,” said peak body Master Builders Australia.

However, Brendan O’Connor, the Labor shadow minister for employment, described it as “very flawed legislation in our view.”
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