Rodney Hide has obviously been following my exposure of the dodgy accounting practices of the Meat Workers Union. He has complained to the Registrar but is meeting some strange resistance to requiring the union to follow the law.
I was recently told about some serious spending by the New Zealand Meat Workers Union that surprised me.
It was so surprising that I thought I should check it out.
No problem. I would just look up their audited accounts that the Registrar of Incorporated Societies would hold. That way I could determine if the story I was told was true.
I was shocked to learn the accounts arenâ€™t there. The meatworkers have four branches and for the past seven years have only been disclosing the capitation fees paid by the four branches to the national body.
For the year ended September 2010 the disclosed income was $712,370.
The total income to the union is several million dollars a year.
Thatâ€™s a failure over the years to disclose tens of millions of dollars
The law is clear. To be a union, an organisation must be incorporated. And incorporated societies must file annual financial statements that members of the public can inspect. The advantage of incorporation is that it gives a legal personality separate from the societyâ€™s members. In return, members of the public can inspect the societyâ€™s accounts.
But I canâ€™t for the Meat Workers Union. Neither can you. And thatâ€™s been the case for seven years.
The Meatworkers Union is clearly and demonstrably breaking the law. Rodney complained and that is where this story becomes weird:
Parliament has provided the registrar with the power to require records. So I wrote to the registrar pointing out the meatworkersâ€™ failure. I suggested he use his power to get the branch records for the last seven years and make them publicly available.
That was back in May. The registrar is Neville Harris, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development, which is part of a new super ministry. He advised me that he had been aware of the meatworkersâ€™ failure to disclose their accounts since November 2011.Â My information was not news to him.
He explained he had been in contact with the union and was following up with the objective of having it file a â€śrevised financial statementâ€ť that includes information relating to the activities of its branches.
I have had no explanation why he doesnâ€™t just demand the branch records and why he is speaking of just one financial statement singular when there are several years missing.
Itâ€™s a complete mystery to me why the registrar just doesnâ€™t demand the branch records and made them publicly available. After all, thatâ€™s the lawâ€™s requirement of unions and incorporated societies.
Mr Harris and I now have had quite a correspondence. I can report that I am no further ahead than when I started.
There must beÂ some real dodgy stuff in there given they are fighting so hard to keep their books secret. I suspect there willÂ be nice payments to the bosses and good fat donations to Labour thatÂ have never been declared.
With the Health Services Union debacle in Australia it is highly likely that at least one union is rorting their members in a similar manner.