Dec 31, 2015

Unions royal commission: companies strife over ‘corrupt’ payments

Three companies, including construction heavyweight John Holland, have been referred by the trade union royal commission to Victorian police to be investig­ated for funnelling allegedly corrupt payments of up to $300,000 to unions.
Eleven current and former executives and managers from eight firms also have been referred to authorities for further investigation into possible offences, including corruption, false accounting and other breaches of corporate law.
Trade union royal commissioner Dyson Heydon slammed the undocumented payment of large sums of money by corporations to the Australian Workers Union and other trade bodies, saying they “reinforce a culture of unlawfulness within unions”.
“The seeking and making of corrupting benefits fosters a particular culture within the unions and their officials that seek, and the employers and their executives that confer, such benefits,’' Mr Heydon found.
“It is a culture that is antithetical to the rule of law.
“Threatening and bullying behaviour by union officials is rewarded. Genuine safety and industrial issues are ignored to the advantage of employers.”
Among the executives facing further investigation is the chief executive of industry super­annuation fund Cbus, David Atkin, who was referred to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The royal commission found Mr Atkin may have contravened the Corporations Act when he was involved in the leaking from Cbus to the ­Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union of confidential members’ information.
A senior executive of engineering services firm Downer EDI, Tony Sirsen, was referred to Victorian police for alleged false accounting over $25,000 paid to the AWU by the company.
The referrals came as key industry bodies and companies endorsed Mr Heydon’s findings.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the highest priority should be given to the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, as recommended by Mr Heydon.
“Essentially, the laws which the royal commission is proposing would achieve much greater transparency and disclosure, and higher penalties for those who break the law,” Mr Willox said.
Building materials giant Boral’s chief executive, Mike Kane, a long-time critic of the CFMEU, said the commission ­report was significant because it provided a clear pathway to ­reform. “In future, organisations illegally targeted can get immediate assistance from government to halt conduct designed to financially punish law-abiding businesses who get in the way of the illegal designs of rogue unions like the CFMEU’s construction division,” he said.

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