Nov 16, 2012

HSU elections back on track as fresh legal action looms

A legal stoush that threatened to delay the troubled HSU's internal election has been resolved today.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Fresh elections for Jeff Jackson's former Health Services Union fiefdom are back on track after leading secretary candidate Diana Asmar was re-admitted to the contest following a Federal Court fight in Melbourne this afternoon. Justice Richard Tracey ruled that Asmar's name would be included on HSU No 1 branch ballot paper, striking down a previous Australian Electoral Commission decision that she was ineligible under internal rules. The judge held that the previous union leadership had incorrectly removed Asmar from the membership register. Her lawyers argued rivals had conspired to keep her off the database and cast doubt on her employment to prevent her from running. Under HSU rules, candidates for secretary are required to hold uninterrupted membership for 12 months and hold or be seeking work in the health care sector. The postal ballot, originally set down for this month but delayed pending the outcome of the court case, will now take place between December 3 and December 19. Last month, Crikey revealed that Asmar's main rival in the secretary ballot, Kathy Jackson associate and former HSU deputy general secretary Marco Bolano, had repeatedly written to the union's administrator Michael Moore to complain about the fiery redhead's eligibility. In court Bolano fiercely contested the claims but suffered a grilling at the hands of Justice Tracey. Moore will now hand over the union's three constitutive parts to the respective management committees when the elections are declared in late December following those of the Victorian No 3 and resurrected NSW branch. The former Federal Court judge and his two deputies have been busy disaggregating and re-allocating debtors and creditors to the HSU's three wings that were disastrously merged into the failed HSUEast edifice in 2010. The task has been hamstrung by the slipshod nature of the union's record-keeping with boxes of files strewn between states. Crikey revealed last month that between the April 2010 merger and June 30 this year, over $7 million was wiped from the combined union’s asset base -- from $8.7 million to just $1.6 million. Ten thousand members, who work in some of Australia's lowest paying jobs, have left. Moore is also proceeding with legal action against entities associated with disgraced NSW chief Michael Williamson in the NSW Industrial Court under section 270 of the state IR Act that allows for the recovery of monies from an official if it can be proven they were directed to an inappropriate purpose. Williamson is facing 28 further criminal charges relating to allegations he paid over-the-odds for clerical services provided by his wife that were never carried out. He denies the charges. There is also believed to be a ruckus looming over massive salary increases paid to Victorian and NSW officials in the months after the merger. HSU national president Chris Brown told Crikey that he expected action because the increases -- notionally to bring the Victorian officials up to par with their NSW colleagues -- may not have been properly authorised by the union's management committee. "The advice [Moore's] got was that they were not properly authorised and he's got grounds to recover that money," Brown told Crikey. Brown said the process of approval was opaque: "I understand what happened was they got a mate of theirs to do an independent report that recommended the new salaries. Michael Williamson and the president of the branch (not the executive president) agreed what the salaries would be and they paid those salaries." The final internal Temby report into the union detailed salary increases of over 60% for Victorian officials in the wake of the merger. Then-national secretary and HSUEast "executive president" Kathy Jackson enjoyed a 66% wages boost to $270,000 -- a figure she herself admitted earlier this year was "obscene". Williamson was paid $395,000 a year and also drew cash from numerous super fund and board appointments. Other officials in the money included Carol Glen ($105,000 to $185,000) and Bolano ($119,00 to $201,000). Under the HSU's scheme of arrangement, Moore is required to make an assessment of liabilities and recover any monies misspent or inappropriately apportioned. Jackson is apparently planning to marry Fair Work Australia Vice President Michael Lawler in Massachusetts next year before kicking on to a group honeymoon in Italy. She is yet to offload her mansion in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn which remains on the market for $2.1 million. Crikey understands that other outstanding contractual wranglings include those of former HSU national secretary Rob Elliott -- the partner of Victorian upper house Labor MP Kaye Darveniza -- who is believed to be fighting to have his $2000-a-day contract with the HSU honoured. Brown declined to comment on that matter, which is at the ping pong stage with legal eagles. In August, Brown leveled 10 internal charges against Jackson alleging "gross misconduct, gross neglect of duty and substantial breach of the rules" that included the Elliott matter, her retention of fees from the union's superannuation fund HESTA and the spending of $40,000 for her legal defence following Fair Work Australia's damning report into the union. Jackson did not respond to an attempt to contact her for this story.

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3 thoughts on “HSU elections back on track as fresh legal action looms

  1. Edward James

    If only there was a way to have all the members resign and walk away from this cesspool of Union abuse of trusting membership. Edward James

  2. shepherdmarilyn

    How does a school teacher get to be involved in a health workers union anyway?

  3. GeeWizz

    Wow so even more Labor Party MP’s involved… deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole we go.

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