Former MP under fire at Royal Commission

by John Maguire23 Oct 2015
The former head of the Australian Workers Union (AWU)’s Victorian branch has denied the union arranged a deal with Theiss John Holland that involved a payment of over $100,000 to fund a union organiser on a construction project.

Last week, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption heard from one of the company’s former executives, who alleged he had negotiated the deal in 2004 with Bill Shorten, who held the state secretary position at the time.

During the inquiry in Sydney, Cesar Melhem – Shorten’s deputy during his time as state secretary – told counsel assisting Jeremy Stoljar QC that the union had profited from payments made by the company for a range of services.

According to the ABC, the commission was shown an email in which a TJH executive referred to an “agreed amount” of $110,000, broken down into payments for tickets to an AWU ball and to an AWU publication, among other payments.

Although Melhem said that while the union had profited from providing services to TJH, he denied that there had been an “agreement” in relation to a specific amount, or the funding of an organiser.

“I'm not denying, end of 2007, that we provided services and ... [a] budget of $110,000,” he told the inquiry.

In June, it was reported that the commission heard that Melhem had made a deal which resulted in workers at a cleaning company being worse off.

Following these allegations being made, Melhem resigned from his position in the Victorian Parliament.

This week, he denied that he had been aware of the deal, which involved Cleanevent paying $25,000 a year to the union, and was allegedly negotiated while the extension of the company’s enterprise bargaining agreement was being discussed.

Melhem was shown an email relating to the agreement, to which he responded: “I don't read every single email. I still don't today.”

The royal commission will submit its findings to the Government at the end of the year.


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