Matter of Interest: Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:33 :45 ): I rise to speak about allegations of corruption, chicanery and bribery within the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the now President of this chamber, the Hon. Russell Wortley, was actively involved in that union as an organiser and secretary.

I will table two statutory declarations and one statement later in this contribution. The first is from Mr Bill Ryan, a former Sagasco employee and former industrial relations manager. Mr Ryan states that while he was at Sagasco he observed how the union dealt with Sagasco, its members and other unions. He believes that union secretaries, presidents and organisers, including Mr Ron Hill, Mr Pat Savage, Mr Dan Moriarty and Mr Russell Wortley, ruled the Federated Gas Employees Industrial Union through intimidation and fear.

He said he was aware that union officials made threats to members of the union which covered white-collar employees, that is, the Gas Industry Salaried Officers' Federation. In making those threats, there were suggestions the union knew where their members lived, where their children went to school and where their wives worked. The union's actions resulted in the GISOF lodging an application to the Industrial Relations Commission for a dispute over the matter. The commission ruled in favour of the GISOF; however, after that ruling, nothing really changed.

Mr Ryan became extremely concerned at the practices of the gas employees union, believing that when you let a bad seed get control, you have got problems. It was Mr Ryan's understanding that the union had significant influence and an effective power of veto over which people should be employed at Sagasco and who should not. From his observations, the company was scared of the union and of the damage it could do to the company. Mr Ryan believes the company tried to buy industrial peace by avoiding disputes with the union or turning a blind eye to union practices. He says that when he sees some of the people involved in the executive of the union in those days now in positions of power and influence, it makes him feel sick.

I will also table a second statutory declaration from a former Sagasco employee, Mr Warren Sinclair. Mr Sinclair said that, while Dan Moriarty, Mr Ron Hill and Mr Pat Savage and the Hon. Russell Wortley were in control of the union, it engaged in strongarm tactics. He says that when Sagasco discovered unionists were moonlighting and taking Sagasco earthmoving equipment and diggers home with them to do private work after hours for their own gain, the union threatened to strike unless the practice was allowed to continue.

Further to these statutory declarations and the statutory declarations of union members Allan Cotton and David Butler, which have been tabled previously, other ex-Sagasco employees have spoken out and seemed to support earlier allegations regarding payments to the union for redundancy packages. Mr Peter Crossman has stated that it was common knowledge that if you paid the union, then the union would say your position could be made redundant.

Mr Ron James heard that the commissions were paid and, while they had an inkling something was going on, there was no way they could prove it. Mr John Stone believes payments were going on. While he has no knowledge of any individual case, they knew things were not as they should be. He says the union members had to pay union officials to secure redundancy during the time that Russell Wortley, Pat Savage, Ron Hill and Dan Moriarty were variously president, secretary or organisers of the union. This is extortion and blackmail.

A former gasfitter, who is still too frightened of the union to allow his name to be disclosed today, says this:

We heard that the union president Ron Hill visited employees at their homes and demanded they keep out of union business. To add to the intimidation, he vis ibly wore what looked like a real handgun.

It was obvious that the union had a blatant disregard for the agreement or the company , and that it was the stronger hand.

According to the gasfitter, the union was so corrupt it could blackmail its own members. He said:

I t became clear that the gas employees u nion was selling additional services to its members. Its offer was to negotiate redundancy packages that were in excess of entitlements, but this service came at the cost of five thousand dollars and was to remain hush .

Having known and heard accounts of Rus sell Wortley as an apprentice, gasfitter and union representative and union secretary for a 30-year period, I cannot understand how Mr Weatherill and Labor have elected him as one of their elite.

I am told that the company then known as Australian Gas Limited attempted to bribe a union official, who I stress was not the Hon. Russell Wortley, to keep industrial peace. We know some allegations have been referred to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. I table these two statutory declarations today and I also indicate I have forwarded these today to the royal commission for their consideration. I table the two statutory declarations and a statement.

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