Neville Harris

Rodney Hide on the Maritime Union

Rodney Hide comments on the news that the Registrar of Incorporated Societies is looking closely at the Maritime Union.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand is in the same pickle as the New Zealand Meatworkers’ Union. It, too, has hidden millions of dollars of spending from the legally required public scrutiny.

Following my complaint, the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Neville Harris, has ordered the Meatworkers’ Union to re-file six years’ of accounts (Hidesight, Aug 24).

His clear expectation is that the full accounts be presented for approval at the annual meeting on November 7 and be filed promptly thereafter.

It will be fascinating to see if the union complies. It has fought long and hard to keep its accounts hidden. But I’m backing the Registrar to prevail. He has the necessary statutory power to ensure the union complies with the law.

There will be some sharp, critical eyes going through the accounts once they’re filed. There is a great deal of interest in the spending that the union has been so anxious to keep from public view.

Yes, the sharp eyes of The Owl, and me. We kicked this all off and now we are starting to see the makings of a scandal in the union movement. Rodney Hide thinks so too:

The legal obligation runs like this. To register, unions must be incorporated societies. The incorporation is important because it creates a body corporate distinct from the members of the union.

The union can thereby hold property and incur obligations in its own right.

Critically, being a member of an incorporated society does not impose on members any liability in respect of any contract or debt incurred by the society. There wouldn’t be too many union members if they were liable for union debts.

In return for the legal protection of members, incorporated societies incur legal obligations, one of which is the filing of an annual financial statement that is available for public scrutiny. That way, any creditors and others can see the financial health of the union.

However, that’s not been possible with the Meatworkers’ Union for years and nor is it the case with the Maritime Union. The accounts haven’t been presented in full and millions of dollars in spending has not been made public as required by law.

The lack of transparency is truly shocking. It’s especially so in light of the spending scandal that has in recent months rocked the Australian Health Services Union.

So far the Meatworkers and now the Maritime union have been caught. Millions of dollars of members monies are being hidden by these dodgy unions.

The Union established Branches at each port in accordance with the rules of the Union. These branches have been given delegated authority to manage their affairs on behalf of their local members. The Financial Statements have not included any information on the financial performance or position of each Branch.”

The accounts show the union taking in $338,058 in affiliation fees, of which $80,059 came from “Auckland Local 13”.

Branch president Garry Parsloe says union fees are 1.25% of wages and the average wage is $57,000, excluding bonuses and allowances. The union claims 300 members at the port. So that’s an income of over $200,000. But only $80,000 of that makes it to the union proper and is declared. That’s just one branch.

The 2003 accounts likewise just show the affiliation fees and not the full income and expenditure of the union. The failure to disclose properly goes back a long time.

More importantly…because they have failed to comply with the law the union actually does not legally exist. Nor do their agreements with employers. If I was a hardened employer I’d be testing this in court.

Rodney’s final note is in the comments:

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies replied to my complaint as follows:

“In light of the issues raised by the NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union matter, my office is currently reviewing financial statement compliance by those incorporated societies who are registered unions.

The Maritime Union of New Zealand is part of that review and there are some issues that my office will be following up with the Union.”

The way I read that is that every union is being investigated because unions are required to incorporate.

That’s a fulsome investigation. I know of only two unions who have unlawfully hidden spending though their branches but I have only looked at two!!

A scandal is brewing.

Maritime Union in the poo

The dodgy Maritime Union is now under investigation by The Registrar of Incorporated Societies. As is usual the union bosses think it is just fine to hide literally millions of dollars of cash from the intention of the law and the view of their members. Between the vigilance of The Owl on this blog and the tenacity of Rodney Hide they are being forced to come clean on their accounts.

The Maritime Union is next in the firing line over filing incomplete accounts – and that might be the tip of the iceberg.

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Neville Harris, has put his foot down over six years of incomplete Meat Workers Union accounts.

Mr Harris told NBR ONLINE his office is reviewing “financial statement compliance” by those incorporated societies which are registered unions.

“My office is in discussion with the Maritime Union of New Zealand on issues similar to that raised in the NZ Meat Workers and Related Trades Union matter.”

In today’s Hidesight column in NBR Print, Rodney Hide says the Maritime Union, too, has been hiding millions of dollars in its accounts and the failure “goes back a long time”.

The Maritime Union has 2800 members in 13 branches, with about half its membership in Auckland – the branch in dispute with Ports of Auckland.

Union national president Garry Parsloe says “heaps of unions” send their national accounts, but not their branch office accounts, to the registrar.

There is “nothing secretive in it”, he says, as each Maritime Union member gets a copy of the branch accounts.

“If we have to conform with that, we’ll conform with it.

“We’re pretty relaxed about it from what I can understand because we have an auditor in every branch, we have returning officer at every branch and we put in tax returns and declare it all.”

The issue will be considered by the union’s national conference, which starts on Monday.

“Every branch is declared it’s just that they seem to want it declared again in that way.”

The Meatworkers were pretty relaxed but they were forced to comply with the law, and so far have failed to do so. I believe that there is a union scam going on here that needs to be opened up.

 

Meatworkers in serious trouble

Contrary to claims made previously that I was manufacturing silliness about the Meatworkers dodgy accounting practices they are now in serious trouble.

NBR reports (paid content):

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies is putting his foot down over six years of incomplete Meat Workers Union’s accounts, hiding millions of dollars.

After questions were raised by NBR columnist Rodney Hide, registrar Neville Harris originally gave the union until October 12 to file its 2011 accounts, including the previously missing branch office accounts.

The union has only provided head office accounts to the Societies Register since 2005.

Mr Harris says the union, formally known as the New Zealand Meat Workers and Related Trades Union, missed the October 12 deadline.

That is because of an Incorporated Societies Act requirement for the union’s accounts to be approved by its members at a general meeting, which is being held on November 7.

Union general secretary Graham Cooke told NBR ONLINE last month it was happy to provide a 2011 set of consolidated accounts, but it was battling Mr Harris’s request for the previous five years because of the cost.

However, Mr Harris – the deputy secretary of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment – is putting his foot down.