The Health Services Union’s national secretary Kathy Jackson — last week the star witness in the prosecution of former MP Craig Thomson — is currently embroiled in her own litigation with the union of which she remains notional head.

Crikey suggested on Tuesday that Jackson faced civil proceedings resulting from her time as head of the scandal-plagued union. Chris Brown, the HSU’s acting national secretary, confirmed today that the union has two civil actions currently underway against Jackson, one in NSW and one in Victoria.

The first, which received some media coverage last year, relates to the employment of former national secretary Rob Elliott (partner of Victorian MP Kaye Darveniza) on a contract the union claims was only agreed in 2010 by Jackson and disgraced former union president Michael Williamson, rather than being authorised by the union’s national executive. According to Brown, Elliott’s contract was worth a staggering $490,000 and only required him to work 20 hours a week.

Last year, Elliott sued the union for unpaid leave under the contract. The union responded by joining Williamson and Jackson to the action. Brown says the union has since settled with Elliott but is still pursuing Williamson and Jackson. Williamson, a former ALP president, filed for bankruptcy in October and will be sentenced for defrauding the union in March.

Late last year the union also began pursuing Jackson for around $35,000-40,000 of what it says were legal fees incurred by Jackson without appropriate approval, in order for her to develop a response to the adverse findings about her in the long-delayed Fair Work Australia HSU report. Brown says the union agreed to pay the fees to the law firm concerned, but is now pursuing Jackson in a Victorian court for the funds, for which she didn’t obtain approval from the national executive.

Meanwhile, Victorian police are continuing to investigate the finances of the union’s No. 3 branch, which may yet produce criminal charges. The union is also considering potential civil action from that investigation.

Correction: This piece originally reported that two civil actions are underway between the Health Services Union and Ms Jackson in Victoria. In fact, one action is underway in Victoria and one is underway in NSW. Crikey apologises for the error.

Peter Fray

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