Jail time for union payments

22 March, 2017

Employers and unions could face hefty fines or jail time following the introduction of legislation banning secret payments between unions and employers by the Turnbull Government this week.

The new laws will criminalise payments or other benefits passed between employers and unions that could have a corrupting influence.

These provisions will effectively bar employers from making payments to a union or union official outside of a narrow range of exemptions, such as payment of union membership fees deducted from employees’ wages or purchase of goods or services at market vaue.

Any union leader willing to accept benefits from an employer will be placing themselves in a highly compromising position.

Penalties will apply equally to employers and unions and 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.

The Bill will also require that any legitimate financial benefits obtained by an employer or union during enterprise agreement negotiations be disclosed to employees.

These changes will deliver on three key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

The commission found that such payments corrupted union officials and should be banned.