The Facts: Ensuring the Integrity of Unions and Employer Groups

The Government is ensuring that unions and employer groups (registered organisations) work for their members and not themselves.

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 will reduce unnecessary costs and delays that law-breaking unions can cause and make sure that building vital infrastructure like hospitals, schools and roads is affordable.

It will also give the Court the power to disqualify officials or cancel the registration of organisations where they do not work in the interests of their members, commit serious offences or have a record of law-breaking.

Why this legislation is important

  • Unlawful union and industrial action costs taxpayers – some reports suggest the cost of building hospitals, schools is up to 30% more expensive.
  • Existing laws have not deterred militant unions like the CFMMEU from continuing to engage in illegal conduct. Over the past 15 years the CFMMEU has racked up over 2,000 breaches – an average of 3 every week - and $16.4 million in penalties. Sadly, the CFMMEU has shown no signs of slowing down, treating these penalties as the cost of doing business.
  • Currently, an official of a registered organisation can retain their position even when they repeatedly break the law or commit serious criminal offences, which is completely out of step with community expectations.

Recent examples of union law-breaking

  • Last month, the CFMMEU were penalised over $100,000 for repeated illegal entry on to commercial construction sites in Melbourne (Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union & Ors)
  • Setting aside the disgraceful comments offered up by some of their more high-profile militant bosses, it’s clear the CFMMEU has a systemic problem when it comes to the treatment of women, with officials previously penalised for intimidating and harassing female public servants on worksites who were just doing their job (Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v Parker (No 2))
  • Earlier this year, the court penalised the CFMMEU and one of its officials for unlawfully forcing workers to sign up to the union, then pocketing their pay cheques in ‘union fees’ (Australian Building and Construction Commissioner v D’Arcy & Anor)

Support for ensuring integrity in employer groups

The Courts are very aware of the repeated law-breaking of militant unions like the CFMMEU, observing the following:

  • "The CFMMEU has long demonstrated by its conduct that it pays little regard to compliance with the law and indeed has repeatedly sought to place itself above the law" – Justice Flick
  • The most recidivist corporate offender in Australian history" – Justice Vasta
  • "The CFMMEU has an egregious record of repeated and wilful contraventions of all manner of industrial laws" – Judge Jarret, Fed Circuit Court

How the legislation will work

The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2019 will introduce a range of measures to ensure registered organisations work for their members and not themselves, including:

  • Giving the Court powers to disqualify officials of registered organisations that don’t act in the interest of members, have a history of breaking the law or are otherwise not fit and proper to hold office in a registered organisation. Officials of law-abiding organisations will be unaffected and free to continue their good work.
  • Giving the Court more flexibility to act to reconstitute dysfunctional organisations and introduce a public interest test for mergers of registered organisations.
  • Cancelling the registration of an organisation where it or its officials have not acted in the interests of members, not complied with court orders, committed serious offences or have a record of law-breaking. Again, law-abiding organisations will be unaffected.

Support our Ensuring Integrity Bill by adding your name here.