CEPU Federal Court Proceedings

16 May 2018 

The Registered Organisations Commissioner has commenced proceedings in the Federal Court against the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union (CEPU) alleging multiple contraventions of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Cth) (RO Act).

The allegations relate to the CEPU's failure to keep an accurate list of, and to notify changes to, its offices and office holders during the period from March 2015 to May 2017.  The allegations include 82 separate instances in which the CEPU failed to notify changes to its list of offices or office holders, either within the prescribed time periods or at all, in contravention of section 233(2) of the RO Act. The Commissioner also alleges that the CEPU failed to maintain an accurate list of offices and office holders under section 230(1)(b) and (c) as disclosed in its 2015 and 2016 returns lodged under section 233(1)(b) of the RO Act.

The Commissioner seeks the imposition of civil penalties on the CEPU.

The history of provisions for registered organisations to maintain a list of offices and office holders, and to notify changes to the relevant statutory body, can be traced back to 1913. The requirements are fundamental to the concept of accountability of officers of an organisation, to enable members of the organisation, the public and the regulator to identify the offices in the organisation and who holds those offices at any point in time.

The Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) will be making no further comment at this time.

Background

Section 230(1) provides that an organisation must keep records including a list of the offices in the organisation and each branch of the organisation and a list of the names, postal addresses and occupations of the persons holding those offices. Details of any changes must be notified to the Commissioner within 35 days beginning on the day after the day when the change is made, as prescribed by regulation 151 of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Regulations 2009.

A copy of records that are required to be kept by the organisation, certified by declaration signed by the secretary or other prescribed officer, are required to be lodged by each organisation by 31 March in each year. The Annual Return of information by each organisation is published under the corresponding organisation on the ROC website and can be found by clicking on the ‘Find a Registered Organisation’ tab. Notifications of changes are published in descending date order within the corresponding year’s annual return document. This enables members to view the changes with reference to the complete list of office holders.

In the circumstances, section 233(2) provides an important tool to ensure proper record keeping by organisations, and to ensure the democratic control and the accountability of organisations and their office holders to members.

On 22 September 2017, the ROC commenced an investigation in relation to the CEPU’s compliance with section 233(2), which was completed on 13 April 2018.

A contravention of sections 230(1) or 233(2) by an organisation may attract a maximum civil penalty based on 300 penalty units.