The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014 has been passed by both houses of Parliament and is awaiting Royal Assent.
The Bill is framed partly as a response to widely publicised misconduct by officers of the Health Services Union and other evidence of poor governance of some trade unions uncovered by the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption.
The stated aim of the Bill is to improve the standard of governance of organisations registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 to:
- Create a Registered Organisations Commissioner, and a Registered Organisations Commission, within (but independent of) the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman to supervise, monitor and regulate the conduct of employer and employee organisations registered under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009;
- Strengthen requirements for financial accounting, transparency and disclosure by officers of registered organisations of material personal interests;
- Provide coercive investigatory powers to the Registered Organisations Commissioner.
- Increase civil penalties and introduce criminal offences for breaches of officers’ duties, and create new offences in relation to the conduct of investigations under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.
As at 3 March 2015, there were 112 registered organisations listed with the FWC of which 66 were employer organisations and 46 were employee organisations.
The amendments that provide for the disclosure of material personal interests, increased accounting and disclosure obligations, criminal offences for serious breaches of officers’ duties and increased civil penalties broadly mirror those that apply to companies and their directors under the Corporations Act 2001(Cth) and have been adapted to align with the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act framework.