The head of one of Australia’s peak mining bodies has accused some senators of attempting to protect union officials at the expense of ordinary union members.
AMMA chief executive, Steve Knott, said the senators were blocking laws that would make union officials more accountable for their decisions and for the way in which money contributed by members was spent.
Mr Knott called on the senators to, “…explain why members of unions and employer groups should not be afforded proper protections and transparency around use of their funds.”
The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 was blocked in the Senate on Monday.
“The question must be asked as to why Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party would vote down legislation that seeks to afford greater protection to members of trade unions and other registered organisations,” Mr Knott said.
“We’ve experienced a very unedifying period in our industrial relations history that has seen the union brand tarnished with convictions of former officials along with a plethora of evidence of corruption and the misappropriation of funds from the Trade Union Royal Commission.
“After such events, union members could not be blamed for losing faith in the very organisations that purport to represent their interests. It does not send a positive message to union members when Labor and minority parties insist on treating their officials as a protected species.”
Mr Knott argues that rather than be regulated by the Fair Work Commission or any other body offering special treatment, registered organisations should simply come under the jurisdiction of Australia’s corporations laws and be regulated by the corporate watchdog, ASIC.
Mr Knott said under the current act, individuals who commit offences can be fined $200,000 and sentenced up to five years in jail, however for a body corporate (which includes trade unions) the penalty is only a $33,000 fine
“The stark difference in penalties shows why the Senate needs to get serious about protecting members of registered organisations from unethical and illegal behaviour,” Mr Knott says.
“Registered organisations often manage tens of millions of dollars in members’ funds. Officials that ethically represent their members and use funds transparently and appropriately would have nothing to fear from the rigorous rules and high standards applied to corporations.”