Government seeks ban on secret union payments – April 2017

Filed under: Employment and Education, Industrial Relations, Trade and industry, Trade Unions,

The Turnbull Government is seeking to legislate a ban on secret payments between unions and employers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the new laws would criminalise payments or other benefits passed between employers and unions that could have a corrupting influence.

“Any union leader who is willing to accept benefits from an employer is placing themselves in a highly compromising position,” he said. “The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption found that such payments corrupt union officials and should be banned.”

The Government’s move is widely seen as opening a new front in its attack on Labor leader Bill Shorten, who the Government has repeatedly accused of accpting “backhanders” while a union leader. Evidence of payments to the AWU while Mr Shorten was Victorian state secretary was given to the Haydon Royal Commission but the Royal Commission did not recommend any action on the allegations.

Mr Turnbull said, “Penalties will apply equally to employers and unions. The person offering or making the benefit will be subject to the same penalties as the person soliciting or receiving it.

“Those who make, receive, solicit or offer payments or benefits intended to corrupt a union official will face a maximum 10 years in prison, up to a $900,000 fine for an individual or $4.5 million fine for a company.

“Penalties for payments or benefits other than specified legitimate payments, such as membership fees, will be 2 years in prison, up to a $90,000 for an individual or $450,000 for a company.

“The legislation also requires that any legitimate financial benefits obtained by an employer or union during enterprise agreement negotiations be disclosed to employees.

If money changes hands between an employer and a union, both parties have an obligation to honestly disclose these payments to their employees and members.”

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