The trade union watchdog has launched an investigation into the Maritime Union of Australia to probe whether union cars were sold for below-market rates to relatives without following proper processes.
The Registered Organisations Commission, a government-funded independent regulator for unions and employer associations, has started the investigation after receiving a whistleblower complaint, according to sources.
The commission declined to comment but pointed to a compliance fact sheet sent to all trade unions last year calling for federally registered organisations to review current practices, policies and governance procedures around vehicle sales to employees.
“The ROC will continue to investigate whistleblower disclosures made to it involving the below-value sale, transfer or disposal of motor vehicles by registered organisations to their employees and officials which may be to the detriment of registered organisations and their members,” the statement said.
The investigation is centred on the MUA’s Queensland branch after a number of officials allegedly sold union cars to friends and family for heavily discounted rates, according to sources.
“Every four years, when the elections are done, they replace the cars,” said one union official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “It’s open slather on whether someone wants to buy a cheap car, it doesn’t go out properly into the marketplace.”
The Age and Herald reported this week that Maritime Super had paid at least $90,000 to fund MUA events in recent years and had resisted merging with other funds, including Mine Super, because of its relationship with the union. The fund has defended the union event sponsorships as an opportunity to grow its membership and said all expenses were heavily regulated.
A spokesman for Maritime Super said the fund was not aware of the commission’s investigation. The union did not respond to requests for comment.