“Master Builders Australia urges the Parliament to support the Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2019 which will give much needed protection for the entitlements of construction workers and more transparency to the funds that manage them,” Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said.
“Worker Entitlement Funds are an important part of the building and construction industry and oversee more than $3 billion in workers redundancy money and other leave entitlements,” she said.
“However despite their size, worker entitlement funds, unlike superannuation funds, have almost no specific legislation to govern their activities and ensure workers money is managed properly,” Denita Wawn said.
The Heydon Royal Commission examined and exposed dozens of examples where Worker Entitlement Funds were deficient in their operation. Some of these included:
§ Giving union members more services and support than non-union members, despite all workers paying in the same amount of money.
§ Providing financial support to union members taking illegal strike action.
§ Funding the cost of union officials under the guise of apprentice or welfare ‘support officers’.
§ Using the interest earned from workers money to pay ‘dividends’ to registered organisations instead of returning interest back to workers.
“Although worker enti are recognised under our industrial regime, there is nothing that stops them engaging in practices which would be otherwise illegal under the Fair Work and Superannuation laws – such as actively discriminating against non-union workers, breaching strike pay laws, and siphoning-off the interest earned from contribution instead of giving it back to workers,” Denita Wawn said.
Despite having billions under management, many would be surprised to learn that Worker Entitlement Funds don’t even have to:
- Disclose the commissions and kick-backs paid to registered organisations.
- Explain to workers how and when they are entitled to claim payment from the fund.
- Issue annual reports or provide financial statements.
- Explain or disclose what fees and charges will be deducted from workers money.
- Tell workers how funds will use their money, or give them any say about how it should be used.
“Worker Entitlement Funds are an important part of the building and construction industry and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure they operate properly,” Denita Wawn said.
“If passed, these laws will simply stop any dodgy practices and prevent accusations that Worker Entitlement Funds are nothing more than union slush funds which skim workers’ money behind closed doors,” she said.
“Nothing in the proposed laws will stop or prevent those Worker Entitlement Funds who do the right thing continue their important role in managing billions of workers leave and redundancy money,” Denita Wawn said.
“There is absolutely no justification or plausible reason why these funds should not have to comply with basic governance and financial management standards that apply in other funds, such as superannuation funds,” she said.
“Building and construction workers deserve the same protections that all other workers enjoy and the community rightly expects,” Denita Wawn said.