November 2, 2012
TRUCKING firms in 2009 were still pouring money into a secretive Transport Workers Union slush fund almost two years after investigations found the fund lacked transparency and was riddled with audit problems.
Cairns News contacted Dairy Farmers this week for comment about its $500,000 contribution to the slush fund and if it was still active. Calls and emails have not been returned.
The union and its then state secretary, Tony Sheldon, were engulfed in controversy when the so-called training fund was first exposed. Union members had been unaware their employers, including Linfox, Dairy Farmers and Toll, had been secretly making payments to the union while it was also negotiating wage agreements. But since then little has changed.
In February 2008, Mr Sheldon released a review of the fund by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, which found the fund’s managing ”council” did not exist and that there was no documentation ”that addresses financial management processes”.
At the time, Mr Sheldon said ”we will correct that omission and move forward with a transparent and robust structure”.
But the new state secretary, Wayne Forno, has conceded the union had still not carried out the report’s recommendations, 18 months after they were issued.
”The union is implementing the recommendations of the Deloitte report which involves the fund ceasing operation,” he said. ”This will occur over time.”
In March, Mr Forno had announced the fund would be managed from July by a new company, the Transport, Education, Audit, Compliance and Health Organisation, run by five board members, two from the union, two representing transport industry employers and ”an independent chair”.
But company records show there are only three directors of the company – Mr Forno, the union’s Wollongong and South Coast sub-branch secretary, Richard Olsen, and a paid union officer, Nimrod Nyols.
Mr Forno also told the Herald the ”chair must be appointed and removed by unanimous decision of the board”. But the corporate records make it clear that ”the chair of directors shall be the person appointed from time to time by the union”.
”The union may determine the term of the office of the chair and may remove and replace the chair,” the document says.
Mr Forno said the full board was still being established.
”[The] industry and union representatives have been appointed and the transitional arrangements will end as soon as the relevant meeting to trigger the normal operation of the constitution occurs before the end of October.”
At the height of the controversy, former union officials alleged that transport firms which had declined to pay into the fund were bullied by officials. But the union always insisted the fund was legitimate, even after it was discovered that it had been used in part to bankroll the political campaigns of state Labor MPs.
Last year, the union mailed a summary of the fund’s 2007 accounts to members. But this year’s version of the same document provided no details on the fund. In the five years to 2005 up to $2 million was given to the fund.
Mr Forno said employer contributions would eventually be transferred to the new company. from SMH
Former TWU secretary Tony Sheldon dines with Prime Minister Juliar Gillard
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/union-slush-fund-raising-truckloads-of-cash-20091011-gsdr.html#ixzz2B1MpGtsg