A branch of a registered organisation took payments from employers that it dishonestly used as membership fees to add hundreds of employees to its register of members (in many cases without the employees’ knowledge).
The Victorian branch did not remove over 1,000 members from its register who had not paid membership fees for more than three years.
Sections 230 and 172 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (the RO Act) require organisations to maintain up-to-date and accurate records of their members. The organisation admitted it had breached these sections.
The Victorian Branch of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) artificially inflated its membership numbers by adding 851 non-members to its register. It did this for over five years by dishonestly using ‘company paid’ memberships.
The Branch added lists of employees from six employers or associations to its register of members. Those employees had not applied to join, and some were also added without the knowledge of the employer or association. The Branch hid the true nature of many of the transactions with fraudulent invoices for services that were often not provided. The Court described this as ‘apparently fraudulent endeavours’. The Branch received payments exceeding $500,000 from the six employers or associations which the Branch improperly treated as membership revenue.
The Branch intentionally did not tell the people involuntarily added to its membership register that they had been made members. Rather, the Branch deliberately excluded them from receiving correspondence. This meant that many of the members falsely added to the register never received a membership card and did not know that they were enrolled as members.
The AWU admitted that the Branch had failed to keep an accurate and up-to-date register of members as was required by the RO Act.
The AWU also admitted that the Branch had failed to remove from its register the names of an additional 1,022 people who had not paid any membership fees to the AWU in over three years. The RO Act requires organisations remove from their register, within 12 months, the names of any members who have been unfinancial for the previous two years.
On 21 November 2020, The Australian reported that the Registered Organisations Commission, a federal government workplace regulator has vowed to resume its controversial probe into the Australian Workers Union after successfully overturning a Federal Court decision.