The CFMEU have told a Senate Committee hearing into the federal government’s proposed legislation to change worker entitlement funds, that any changes could lead to the loss of apprentice jobs, and disable the unions ability to deliver industry health and safety programs.
CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan told the hearing that the Government was proposing an unprecedented and unwarranted level of control and interference over the funds, for which there is no equivalent in the corporate world.
“If this legislation goes through, it leaves the door open for the Employment Minister to regulate to interfere in the running of these funds, making it harder for us to deliver lifesaving programs and apprenticeships,” said Noonan.
The Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill seeks to control worker entitlement funds, which support workers who are made redundant. Interest from these funds supports health, safety and welfare programs, training and education in one of the most dangerous industries with one of the highest rates of suicide.
These programs include suicide prevention, high-risk licensing training, drug and alcohol treatment, skin cancer awareness, and other vocational training and education in the industry.
The CFMEU say the proposed laws bestow regulation, giving powers to the Employment Minister, which they say allow for future ministerial interference in union affairs.
The level of financial management and scrutiny proposed by this legislation goes beyond anything that exists for publicly listed companies that manage shareholder funds, which the union says far exceeds union resources.
The Bill proposes to give independent directors the power of veto over funds being used for training and welfare purposes.
“This would give directors of these funds more power than other fund trustees and would hinder the ability to run vital health, safety and wellbeing programs for our industry,” said Noonan.
The Bill also prohibits donations to welfare or charitable organisations, meaning support for programs such as ‘Mates in Construction’, a mental health/self-harm and suicide prevention programme would cease.
“The Government is bringing in this legislation under the deceitful guise of adverse Royal Commission findings. The measures proposed in the legislation go far beyond what was recommended by the Royal Commission.”