This Mess We’re In – The ongoing saga and mess to clean up HSU’s Number 1 Branch

Posted: November 25, 2013 in HSU Saga

Branch Number 1 of the HSU has had its fair share of troubles for many years now and its membership must be among the most patient union members on earth.

Or perhaps the most frustrated.

The union members have seen their funds evaporate under Jeff Jackson with allegations of misuse of members funds for all kinds of things including brothel visits, holidays, alcohol, and expensive meals. Since then they have seen Jeff’s ex-wife Kathy Jackson calling the shots while bully boy Marco Bolano was at the helm.

Last year the union members of the various branches voted in the HSU elections. After an initial delay due to a court decision regarding one of the candidates Diana Asmar and her eligibility to stand members of Number 1 Branch finally had a chance to clean up their branch of the union.

Or so they thought…

Members voted to remove the Jackson faction by sending Marco Bolano packing and electing Diana Asmar as branch secretary. Members thought their troubles were over and they would have the chance to rebuild the troubled branch.

They were wrong.

Both the NSW branch and the Number 3 Branch in Victoria saw the Jackson faction eradicated at the election, however the Number 1 Branch saw some from the Marco Bolano ticket get elected including the role of Assistant Secretary/Treasurer and some members of the Branch Committee Of Management or BCOM.

There are currently four members of the union management in Victoria off work on worker’s  compensation at the taxpayer’s expense.  Three of these are particularly interesting.

Marco Bolano has been on compensation payments since being stood down from the role of Number 1 Branch Secretary by an administrator appointed by a Federal Court judge, and then losing a democratic election. That is called “being bullied” by some right-wing journalists and shock-jocks, to the rest of us it’s known as ‘just deserts”.

Kathy Jackson now forced to pay off her own credit cards without the aid of the Number 3 Branch cheque account also finds herself off on stress leave with John Q Taxpayer picking up the tab.

However it is Leonie Flynn and the circumstances her being off on “stress leave” I wanted to look at today.

Leonie Flynn who is  close to Marco Bolano, was elected as the Assistant Secretary of the Number 1 Branch of the HSU on Bolano’s ticket by the members and has thus far failed in her official capacity, however there is a question as to where the blame lies for this.

What Flynn has done may in fact be the biggest favour done for the members since their fellow members gave Bolano the boot.

Kathy Jackson and Marco Bolano seem to be spending their time off on compensation doing radio interviews with shock-jocks and television appearances, as this must somehow help soothe the pain of the horrendous mental anguish they are clearly suffering. Clearly…

Marco Bolano - struggling at home on a huge compenstaion claim at the taxpayers expense

Marco Bolano – struggling at home on a huge compensation claim at the taxpayers expense

Meanwhile Leonie Flynn has reportedly become a prisoner in her own home.

Leonie Flynn who is currently on stress leave from the stricken branch has spent her time drafting a 33 page long document which details allegations of serious breaches of the union rules since the election of Diana Asmar as secretary. Her workers compensation application says that she now suffers psychiatric illness. A link to the document is below.

Leonie Flynn Statement

These allegations include the preventing of Leonie Flynn from performing the role that she was elected to perform, the roles of Assistant Secretary and in particular Treasurer.

According to union phone records, provided to the union regulator FWC Flynn barely attended work, and rarely completed a full day at the office. Sources allege she spent much of what little time she spent at the office smoking, or at the hairdresser’s on Clarendon Street (around the corner from the Union’s offices), usually in the company of one of the Bolano’s staff members Peggy Lee who worked at the union on a 457 visa.

Peggy was one of a few Jackson-era staff given a go by the union’s new leadership. However when it was revealed by those going through the union’s records that Peggy was on a Bolano campaign phone-roster during work-hours, in breach of Federal Court orders that no union resources be used for campaign purposes, she apparently resigned ahead of being sacked.

Peggy wasn’t alone in rorting union resources during the 2012 campaign, with union phone and petrol card records also showing that Flynn also used union resources during the 2012 campaign, in violation of the union rules and the Federal Court order. She was a candidate, so perhaps this was expected, but it is still dodgy in a major way.

Flynn  who was Maffra’s Miss Tractor Pull in 1985, was apparently offered financial and governance training courses to bring her up to speed but failed to complete the application forms to enrol in them

Flynn has also been sighted at hospitals, visiting Union delegates and members as recently as last week at Frankston Hospital. Sources have suggested this is to do with campaigning for the next election.

Flynn is also understood to continue to socialise with her former work colleagues and union partners on a regular basis.

However other allegations from Flynn include the union being run by Kimberley Kitching who was appointed as the unions General Manager upon Diana Asmar being elected as Secretary but not elected by members. The use of union staff and funds to run pre-selection campaigns for ALP candidacy for Federal seats for Kitching, and massive legal bills which she questions the validity of.

Still more allegations involve the completing of Right Of Entry tests by others for union organisers, which is illegal and equivalent to filling out a statutory declaration for somebody else,the disappearance of telephone equipment from the office, and also the approval of travel expenses.

If these allegations have merit, and they certainly appear detailed and are backed up by many others I have spoken to, then the current running of the Number 1 Branch leaves a lot to be desired.

For a team that ran their election campaign under the banner of transparency, team Asmar certainly needs to be transparent with the members now and provide some answers to the many allegations.

It is noteworthy that Chris Brown, the person who bravely took on the Kathy Jackson and right-wing shock-jock campaign last year, and who became Acting National Secretary last Friday has been working closely with the Number 1 Branch’s leadership, has frequently attended the office, been through the books of the Branch and has publicly defended their efforts to reform the union.

Last week I tried to contact Diana Asmar and Kimberley Kitching to hear their side of the story.

I emailed the address given on the HSU National site for Diana Asmar and it bounced back as unrecognised.

I rang the branch to get the correct email addresses and was told by the receptionist that I was not allowed to have them and even she didn’t have them. All correspondence to Asmar or Kitching had to go through a bloke by the name of George Droutsas, who is apparently the branch’s Communications Director, who would pass my query on.

Thinking this odd, I sent Mr Droutsas an email as suggested with a couple of questions for him also, below is a link to a copy of my email.

Email re Asmar and Kitchings Email address

As yet I have still to receive a response  from George Droutsas, Kimberley Kitching, or the Branch Secretary Diana Asmar.

Diana Asmar - No response
Diana Asmar – No response

In Flynn’s  role as Assistant Secretary/Treasurer is supposed to sign every cheque that the union issues, these are the union rules that were set by a Federal Court appointed administrator. Flynn claims she is not even a signatory on the union cheque account, and cannot even say if a cheque has ever been issued by the branch. Sources say the branch no longer use cheques.

If correct this would appear to be denying the members their choice and ignoring the result of a democratic election.

One area that astounded me in the allegations regarding the reported bullying and intimidation of Leonie Flynn is the alleged use of tracking devices that were reportedly used on Flynn’s union vehicle.

However given her own workers compensation claim reporting psychiatric illness, perhaps paronia is playing a part.

There have been suggestions that these allegations by Flynn could be a part of a plot by Kathy Jackson and Marco Bolano to regain control of the branch at the next election.

However given nobody from the Branch will go on record or make an official response, we only have Leonie Flynns side of the story  and the views of sources who won’t be named to go upon.

The fact is that Flynn was a part of Bolano’s ticket, that much is for sure, however from my enquiries Flynn picked up votes not from Bolano supporters, but because she was extremely well-respected by members in her field.

However Flynn was reportedly overheard in a distressed state in the union office after her requests to have her daughter employed by the union were denied. Some say this may be why she bears an apparent grudge.

There is however one thing that I do find incredibly intriguing. Something that can be seen as either a huge co-incidence or evidence to support the theory of Kathy Jacksons involvement.

The current investigation by Fair Work Commission into the matters raised by Flynn is being headed up by Chris Enright.

Chris Enright is Director of Regulatory Compliance Branch at FWC and was formerly General Manager of the Australian Crime Commission gaining himself notoriety for the Bob Debus File.

However it is not Bob Debus or his file that is of concern, it is Enrights relationship with John Lawler CEO of Australian Crime Commission and brother of Kathy Jacksons partner Michael Lawler.

Lawler and Jackson
Lawler and Jackson

I sent a short email to Mr Enright to ask if he saw any conflict of interest in his involvement.

Dear Mr Enright,

Given your former position at the Australian Crime Commission and your working relationship with the CEO John Lawler whilst there, I was wondering if you feel it is appropriate that you are in any way involved in a HSU matter, or whether you see a conflict.

John Lawler as I expect you are aware is the brother of Michael Lawler one of Fair Work Commissions Vice Presidents and partner of Kathy Jackson National Secretary of the HSU. Kathy Jackson is one of those who may gain considerably from your organisations findings and rulings.

 Given you have connections with two members of the Lawler family I wondered if you saw that as an issue.

 I hope this is something you have considered, and if not I hope that you will consider removing yourself from any HSU related matter so as the public can be assured of a non biased investigation.

 If you could let me know your position on this given the current investigation into HSU Number 1 Branch it would be greatly appreciated.

 Kind Regards

 Peter Wicks

As yet there has been no response.

Leonie Flynn has not been available for comment as I understand it she is suffering from extreme stress.

Whilst looking into this I am also being told by members that there is a $15 Million fund that is to be split between number 1 and number 3 Branch for the purpose of reclassifications. Members are querying what is happening with the money and some have allegedly been told by Diana Asmar that they are going to use the money for another purpose, although has yet to enlighten members on just what that purpose is.

Sources deny that the money is destined for another purpose and claim that the hold up is due to the Number 3 Branch finalising their claim.

Many also claim that during the campaign new members were told they would be paid a bonus by the union after $500,000 was split between members if Asmar secured the role of Secretary, they are wondering what happened to the money they were allegedly promised.

From what I am led to understand, Asmar promised members a $50 rebate on their membership fees, once the Union was back in the black. Sources have explained that due to the cutting of expenses, and an increase in the number of members the Union is now able to meet this commitment. Members can expect this rebate around Christmas time.

For what it is worth I am reserving my judgement on the matter until I am in receipt of all of the details that are missing from Flynns statement, see any response from the current management of the branch and also await the outcome of any FWC investigation.

However one thing I am sure of is this, the real losers in this mess are the members, once again.

I know that the members are sick to death of the fighting between the factions over the running of this branch of the HSU.

Members are well and truly over seeing the amount of time, effort, and their funds wasted on the fighting, bickering, accusations and scheming from these two factions and it is about time it stopped.

Whether it is Asmar or Bolano running the union, one thing is clear, this type of carry on will continue on regardless and keep destroying the reputation of the union movement and break the spirit of its members.

There is perhaps one solution that may solve the issue once and for all and it is one that won’t be popular with either side.

I would look seriously at dissolving and shutting down the number 1 branch and then absorbing the members into branches 2, 3 and 4, as they seem to be chugging along quite nicely without the factionalism.

However sources from within the branch have pointed out those expecting a miracle turnaround after years of Marco Bolano at the helm and Kathy Jackson pulling the strings were always going to wind up disappointed.

Amongst the wreckage left behind were more than 450 expired EBA’s (Enterprise Bargaining Agreements), some of these expired in 2002, over a decade ago. This is beyond reprehensible. It is dereliction of duty in a major way and those who made up the union at the time need to hang their heads in shame for ignoring this most basic of duties.

It is also worth noting that Leonie Flynn was an organiser for and ran on the ticket of those who ran the union whilst these EBA’s were in limbo.

Since Asmar replaced Bolano at the helm more than 150 of these have been negotiated and completed.

That leaves more than 300 EBA’s left to negotiate, and sources have told me that this is the number one priority of the new team, as addressing things such as award rates for members is something that is crucial and urgent.

Sources have also confirmed that a formal response to the allegations made by Flynn near being finalised and will be sent to the Chris Enright of the Fair Work Commission. This will be a detailed response I am told and has taken a great deal of time to put together.

Time that no doubt could have been far more productively spent working on those EBA’s.

Despite Flynn’s allegations, union insiders report the branch’s membership is growing at a healthy rate.

Flynn’s claims, which were sent to the Melbourne Age newspaper prior to being lodged with the Commission, are being investigated, as are the bona fides of the worker’s compensation claims made by Flynn and Bolano.

No matter which side you choose to believe, one thing is for certain, the long-suffering members of all of the branches of the HSU deserve the chance to have a union that is finally focused on them and their rights and conditions at work.

After all, isn’t that what the union movement is supposed to be about?

 

AFTERNOTE & APOLOGY

It has been brought to my attention that the email address I sent to  George Droutsas was sent to the wrong email address, therefore he was unable to respond as he had not seen it.

In my defence, I used the email address that was supplied to me by the Branch’s receptionist.

I apologise for any inconvenience caused

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Comments
  1. Clr Tony Hay says:

    Hey Wixxy, is this a re-post?

    Sent from my iPad

    • wixxy says:

      Yes and no….

      I pulled the old one down due to some issues and some new information coming to light

      This is a rework the final third is different

  2. owen1967 says:

    good afternoon Peter.
    great to see that you have used a Polly Jean Harvey song title this time around … i was beginning to suspect you had a fascination with 80’s pop music … PJ & Thom Yorke … ahhh, just the ticket for a message to your former HSU manager friends …

    “And you must leave now,
    Before the sun rise,
    Over the skyscrapers,
    and the city … oh, this mess we’re in”

    surprisingly, i have nothing to add.

  3. I agree – it is a corrupt web, extreme shame put on the Labor movement by these self-interested fraudsters – shut it down, and give members some hope. I’m surprised there are any members left. Somebody outside of all the networks employed to systematically do the work for members that should have been done.
    The fact that they have ripped off the lowest paid workers is depicable and shows they are not working for the Union or the movement. And outrageous it got so far. Need somebody who doesn’t know anybody.

  4. Concerned HWU member says:

    Money back by Christmas….long time coming. Does this mean that the Secretary is going to use $650,000.00 of the members money to give back to members lol that’s a joke. If the Campaigner promised $50 in her Election then she should be paying for it out of her own pocket! It makes no sense for members to have their own money back, we would like to see OUR money spent in other areas, like maybe employing staff who actually know how a Union works, as clearly this is not the present day case. Ex ALP staff and CITY COUNCIL members have NO clue on how a UNION is ran.

  5. clarittee says:

    What is going on with Craig Peter? More contrived head lines. How much more $#it does this man have to cop?

  6. Lonie says:

    It is very unfair of you to attack elected officials for getting Workcover to ensure they can campaign during union election campaigns at union and taxpayer expense. They have every right to ensure they are well provided for during these times where no-one else pays you. What you see as fraud is really just a subsidy for democratic participation

    • wixxy says:

      Absolutely not, why should the taxpayer fund their campaign time?

      That would be like a political candidate resigning and expecting the taxpayer to fund their time campaigning

      I don’t expect any financial support from taxpayers when I apply for a job, why should anyone else be different?

  7. The Union elite continue to call the shots within the Party. Membership of ALP affiliated unions comprises only 8% of the electorate and unionists are a small minority of ALP members (around 16%). Worse, the number of unionists who are also ALP members is well below 1% of the total membership of these (ALP affiliated) unions. While an elite of Union power brokers manipulates the ALP to its own advantage behind the increasingly spurious claim of protecting the interests of working Australians, their own members whose dues bankroll the Party see no reason to join and according to Labor historian Rodney Cavallier (Age 20/11/13) most no longer even vote Labor. To the HSU it seems we can now add the TWU and the AWU.Where does it end Wixxy?

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