Meatworkers’ Union shell game hides real power

Rodney Hide

HIDESIGHT

You will recall that the New Zealand Meatworkers’ Union has been for years hiding millions of dollars of income and spending from the required public scrutiny by only revealing the capitation fees paid to the union head office and keeping the monies in four unregistered and unincorporated branches (Hidesight, August 24).

I had previously thought that was the only issue. I was wrong. It just got way more interesting.

But first let’s cover off the required public disclosure of the spending and income.

The Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Neville Harris, wrote to me last week to say he has “confirmed to the union that I require the filing of compliant financial statements for, initially, the 2011 financial year and subsequently the 2006 to 2010 financial years”.  

The registrar is expecting the first of the financial statements to be filed by October 12, 2012.

The registrar included in his letter interesting documents under the Official Information Act. They show the Meatworkers’ Union strenuously resisted the statutory requirement to disclose their income and spending.  

The back and forth between the registrar and the union has been quite extraordinary. It’s clear that October 12 is looming as quite a showdown. My money is on the registrar.

But the documents reveal a much bigger problem with the Meatworkers’ Union than I had ever contemplated.

It turns out the muscle end of the Meatworkers’ Union is not a union at all, that the meatworkers can’t lawfully exercise any of the powers and privileges of a union, and that the meatworkers are acting outside of the law whenever they do so.

The senior accountant in the Registrar’s Office explains: On April 19 he wrote to the national secretary of the Meatworkers’ Union, David Eastlake, saying, “The problem is that it is the incorporated society that is the sole legal entity – the branches are just that, branches of the incorporated society – the branches are not legal entities.”

That’s clear: the branches are not legal entities.

But it’s the branches that do all the union business. I have a February 10 letter by the principal of Beck and Associates, which audits the national office accounts. The letter explains that, “The national office does not have members. Individuals sign a form and in practice become members of their relevant branch.”  

Further, “Employee union subscriptions in fact go directly to the relevant branch bank account, not the national body.” The branches are entirely “autonomous.” And, “The national secretary, Mr David Eastlake confirms the above points.”

The national office itself has no members. That’s according to the union itself and its auditors. But a registered union must be an incorporated society and an incorporated society must have 15 members.  

The union itself has problems. By its own admission, it can’t be an incorporated society and it can’t be a union.

But the branches are in worse shape. The branches that do all the union business are not legal entities and are certainly not unions. That’s according to the registrar’s office.  

But the Meatworkers’ Union admits it is the branches that are exercising all the powers and privileges of a union. They have no lawful authority to be doing so.

This is big stuff. Employers should be asking under what legal authority the meatworkers are undertaking collective bargaining, accessing the workplace, requiring companies to allow employees to attend union meetings, requiring union fees to be deducted from employees’ pay, and so on.  

Because, according to the registrar’s office, employers are not dealing with a legal entity, let alone a registered union.

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15 Comments & Questions

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How many other unions are like this? I see on Whale Oil 20 other unions hadn't filed their accounts either and remember reading other unions use the capitation system too which means they are not legal. The big one I find is the tax issue. If not incorporated then the IRD has the right to charge them tax etc plus is members have enjoyed benefits that is all subject to FBT

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Great work Rodders!

So does this mean where officials of the MWU have attempted to act on behalf of this illegally operating entity, that these so called “officials” are actually acting illegally – without legal purpose - and are therefore liable for any “commercial damage” they have inflicted upon a commercial business because of their resulting illegal activities?

Surely bigger questions need to be also asked of the unions and the Registrar in this instance.

Why has it taken over 6 years for the Registrar to uphold their duties requiring the unions to meet and maintain their minimum legal requirements? 6 years… is not just an “over-sight” it smacks of complicit corruption. 6 years is beyond just lazy filing / record keeping – it’s a huge dereliction of duty by the Registrar. What else are the unions getting up to? With the help of the Registrar? 6 years = 2190 days – that’s considerably longer than just an “oversight”

If someone portrays themselves as a “lawyer” accepting the fees, duties and role of a lawyer and whilst undertaking those same duties, through their incompetence sends an innocent person to jail – is this so called “laywer” then responsible for all the other cases they may have “lost” or for resulting damages they have inflicted whilst operating illegally?

Would/should the same apply to the MWU where they attempt to be a 3rd party employer advocate – and political activists at the same time also – and all whilst neglecting their minimum statutory responsibilities?

As all the unions are affiliated with each other and the Labour Party – can PoAL now pursue the multi-millions in lost revenue caused by the deliberate business sabotage by MUNZ – one part of an illegally operating entity?

The Dept of Labour needs to investigate this – because if the MWU haven’t filed their minimum financial requirements for over 6 years – the often heard rumours of the MWU not even being able to calculate holiday pay will be true – and surely the Dept of Labour will need a thorough investigation to ensure responsibilities are being upheld for the workers belong to the MWU? – because it surely seems the MWU are only interested in themselves and deliberately go out of their way to file minimum legal annual financial accounts… and have been able to achieve this mal-practise for 6 years, year after year after year.

The authorities need to pour brilliant sunlight onto this entire “related party” rorting going on. With the unions funding the Labour Party, who in turn appoint senior management into various State owned entities – who in turn offer multi-million dollar “grants” back to the unions for “training and safety”

BUT who knows what was delivered by the unions for these multi-millions? What was achieved for these multi-millions? To whose benefit? When? Where? Who is ensuring these deliverables were achieved?

Or do the unions just “receive” these tax-payer multi-millions from their political wing as thanks for organising union members to vote for Labour? Because surely – it’s all a ponzi scheme that Bernie Maddoff would be most envious of… and no one is looking, supervising, checking and double checking….

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It is a shame Mr Hide did not have the "guts" to ring the General Secretary of the NZMWU and ask some of the questions rather than make these wild erroneous assertions that can be likened to a "Fantasy novel".
Who is your unreliable informant Rodney? Michael Talley, Hamish Simson or maybe Alan Barber? all members of the NZMWU I would guess.
You never sort any information under the OIA on who made the complaints or why your only interest was correspondence between union and Incorporated Society.
You have opened up a can of worms Rodney, not for the meat union nor for other Unions........with your other eye (assuming you have two) have a look at the National Party on the Incorporated Society web page.
NZ NBR readers would be very interested in your take!!
Then look at the NZ Polio Society and the many other "do good" societies.
Or is it easier to union bash, when in reality Rodney they are doing more for their members than you and your girlfriend did in Parliament by feeding on the "tax payer trough".

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Got any more red herrings? Care to address the facts?

Yes and no I presume.

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This is fascinating - Unfortunately some others I have commented to today on the matter, their eyes glazed over and said "so what". The left will see it as union bashing and the right will see it as tax avoidance. What we need I suspect is a means of keeping it simple, just like TV needs 30 second sound bites and pithy headlines. Such an important expose deserves not to be dismissed by many who will fail to see the bigger picture. Congrats again Mr Hide.

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Maybe the "union" members will start to ask a few questions as well??? Or will they continue to show blind faith in a few highly paid protagonists??

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Why did he have to talk to the meat workers union? The Registrar has made it quite clear the union is acting illegally and have given them until October 12th to deliver all their accounts. The Registrar is the judge in this matter and he has made his ruling. This isn't a union bashing story..it is a matter of law.

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Go Rodders!

We need people like you keeping them honest!

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So when's your expose of the Sensible Sentencing Trust's funding, Rodney?

I'd also be interested to see your expose of Act's anonymous funders over the last decade or so.

Or how about your piece on how much ratepayer money PoAL has wasted trying to do over its workers?

Y'see Rodney, you're a hypocrite and a coward who seems to think transparency and accountability are for everyone else but you. Just like you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar after busting everyone else's perks.

The only transparent thing about you is what a joke you and your "ideals" are.

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Someone's hit a nerve!

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Anon: I am unsure how many unions are failing to comply. The suggestion from Whale is that it is systemic. I thought I wouyld just concentrate on the most egregious example.

I am not a tax expert but I suspect there are huge ramifications including tax given their structure -- or lack of it.

Solidarity: I have a complaint in with the Dept of Labour. I will keep you posted. I have been through the correspondence with Mr Neville Harris and the Union and I have now quite some sympathy for his position. THey have been bloody difficult. The proof will be the action he takes should they fail to file their financial statements as he’s demanded.

Anon: “Gutless”? Quite possibly. But no need to ring the union: it’s all there in black and white. My informant is the Registrar responding under the OIA. I got started on this because of the posts on whaleoil.

Thanks to everyone else. I appreciate your comments.

Anon: “hypocrite”? “coward”? Hmmm. I must be onto more than I think. Thank you for encouraging me to redouble my efforts.

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Maybe Rodney you should publish the table Whale Oil has of how many unions haven't filed their returns?

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As for the crazy breakfast in schools program maybe we could twist some statistics and lie some more about numbers and the rampant socialism will make sense again?

Priceless quote from one Principal: "we teach them, now we teach them how to behave, now you want us to feed them breakfast, where does end? Shall we bathe them and wipe their bums before we send your kids home too?"

Maybe the unions should be advocating for the bathing and hygiene of its members provided for by the "workplace" also?

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Maybe @RodneyHide should look at the Maritime union and see what their structure is .. would be interesting given the damage they're doing to the Auckland and NZ economy.

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Great work Rodney, Good to see some one is looking closly at us, as the way we normally behave "The 99%" do give a rats arse about us.
Might want too look at one of the recent NZMWU lockouts, as I hear a lot of money went missing without a trace.......

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