The Turnbull Government will introduce legislation to protect the benefits of Australian workers and ensure they are held for workers and not spent for other purposes.
Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, said millions of dollars each year are poured into an opaque network of trusts and other funds controlled by registered organisations who receive payments from them.
"It is vital that the money held by worker benefit funds is used for the benefit of workers,” Minister Cash said.
"The Government will end the secrecy and lack of accountability of these funds by requiring proper governance, audited reporting and transparency."
The Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017 will implement recommendations of the Heydon Royal Commission.
Minister Cash said the Government’s reforms will deliver greater transparency and accountability for Australian workers.
"Australian workers have the right to know how the money being held on their behalf is being spent and why,” Minister Cash said.
Worker entitlements such as redundancy pay and sick leave are often paid into separate worker benefit funds controlled by registered organisations. These payments are often secured through clauses in enterprise agreements that are negotiated by the same officials controlling the funds into which the entitlements are paid, and those officials then make distributions to themselves from these funds.
"Despite being created to preserve worker benefits such as redundancies, training and sickness benefits, these funds have been used to funnel more than $25 million a year to unions – this is clearly at the expense of workers,” Minister Cash said.
Despite union membership being in freefall for the past 20 years, Australian trade unions have amassed an asset base of in excess of $1.5 billion and receive annual revenues of $900 million.
"Through cosy deals with big businesses, unions have become a big business in their own right and more focused on making profits than representing people,” Minister Cash said.
"Parliament has a responsibility to protect honest workers. The Turnbull Government’s legislation will help ensure worker benefit funds are used only for the benefit of workers.”