Much done but more to do: Setting the unions straight
There are good unions, and there are bad unions.
The Nationals and Liberals have worked together to create legislation banning secretive deals between businesses and unions that sell workers’ rights down the river and fund the actions of thugs and union extremists who fail to represent average, hardworking Aussies.
In the good corner, I would put the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers (AIMPE) who fight to keep their members in employment without militant action or excessive wage demands. I have attended their annual conference and saw first-hand how respectfully officials and members treat each other, and the restraint they show.
Top of the bad corner is the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), who it seems almost weekly are being handed massive fines at a union or individual officials level. For instance on the 13th of September the Federal Court handed out penalties in excess of $2.4 million for industrial lawlessness at Barangaroo. The CFMEU has the dubious honour of being the first union to be slapped with $10 million in fines.
Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has been dogged in exposing the illegal actions and the kickbacks, and in August the Fair Work Amendment (Corrupting Benefits) Bill passed the Parliament. This bans secret and corrupting payments from businesses to unions.
The Heydon Royal Commission uncovered payments, known as corrupting benefits, between unions and employers which are designed to ensure companies receive favourable treatment from the unions. It is well documented that a senior Labor Party politician in his role with the Australian Workers Union (AWU) traded away the pay and conditions of low-paid workers and the union later received secret payments of $75,000 from a company. There is plenty of evidence of companies making payments to unions for things such as “special education trust”, “paid education leave” and even “back strain research”. The Corrupting Benefits legislation outlaws this and will make both parties culpable.
In recent times we have seen stories in the press that Trade Unions have been accused of skimming more than $130 million from unregulated worker entitlement trusts which are funded by employers to cover redundancies, sickness benefits and training. Unsurprisingly the CFMEU was the largest beneficiary. The Nationals and Liberal have introduced legislation which will protect the benefits of Australian workers to ensure they are held for the workers and used for other purposes. We saw how Labor and the Unions fought tooth and nail against the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal because they knew by driving owner-drivers out of the industry, the Transport Workers Union would be the winner.
There is a place for unions who advocate lawfully on behalf of their members. Hassling retired politicians, blocking commuters on their way to work, forcing workers off the job and intimidating law abiding citizens just trying to make a living are the hallmarks of thugs and goons and have no role in our workplaces.
I’m proud to continue fighting for regular people just trying to make a living and proud to support this Bill as part of my career long battle for more transparency for your average Australian worker, no matter who is trying to manipulate them.