Musicians’ Union In Trouble With Fair Work Australia

Employment Minister Eric Abetz is calling for tougher union governance as the Fair Work Commission prepares to take action against the Musicians’ Union of Australia for allegedly committing multiple breaches of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.

As The Australian reports, four investigations into the MUA have convinced commision General Manager Bernadette O’Neill that 101 contraventions of their fiscal reporting obligations had occurred, including 24 breaches by the union’s federal office alone, in addition to other branches.

“In my view the contraventions are neither technical nor minor in nature,” Ms O’Neill told The Australian. “The cumulative effect of these contraventions reflects a conscious, flagrant and prolonged failure to comply with the financial reporting obligations of the Act.”

“The consequence…is that members of the union have been deprived the opportunity to be informed of the financial position of the union’s reporting units over a prolonged period of time. This disclosure is fundamental to achieving the objects of the Act, and is a serious matter.”

However, she said that she did not believe that there had been any criminal conduct, dishonesty or misuse of union funds perpetrated and that one official accused of 71 contraventions of the act was acting in the best interests of the union, but did not take sufficient steps to ensure compliance.

Pending further legal advice, Ms O’Neill has said that it is in the public interest to commence civil proceedings in the Federal Court, seeking penalties against the union’s federal office, Melbourne branch, Newcastle branch, and Coalfields branch, as well as against one union official.

MUA Federal Secretary Terry Noone told The Australian today that the union and its officials were “doing our best” to finalise reports. Noone told Workplace Express, via Tone Deaf, that he was unable to comment on the situation as he “hadn’t seen anything from the Federal Court yet.”

Senator Abetz highlighted the MUA’s breaches as further evidence of the need to pass the government’s bill to tighten union governance standards and establish a Registered Organisations Commission, saying they would be positive moves towards greater union accountability.

“The most effective way to prevent such conduct in future is to ensure that union bosses are subject to higher standards of conduct together with higher penalties for breaches. This can only be done by establishing a stronger regulator with more effective powers,” he said.

Since 1887, the MUA has provided support and representation for working musicians, lobbying government and industry to set minimum rates and working standards, as well as organising entertainment visa applications, taxation returns, equipment insurance advice, and work referrals.

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