In Australia, investigations of labor corruption go all out. Recent leaders of that country's Health Services Union no doubt wish that wasn't the case. This March, former HSU National President Michael Williamson was sentenced in Sydney District Court to up to seven-and-a-half years in prison for fleecing his union of about AUD$1 million, though the true total of his thefts may have run well into the millions. He had pleaded guilty last October. A union commission is continuing its search for answers in this scandal. Recently-released phone recordings have confirmed Williamson directed his HSU East Branch successor to block a police probe. And the union has sued its former national secretary, Kathy Jackson, for diverting $660,000 toward personal expenses. Jackson denies all wrongdoing, saying the charges are the work of opponents bent on punishing her prior whistle-blowing.
When Michael Williamson resigned last summer as head of Australia's Health Services Union, his legal problems were only beginning. Now they've been raised to a new level. This April 8, police in Sydney accused the former labor leader with diverting about $600,000 in union funds to personal use over a more than three-year period. The charges follow 20 embezzlement, fraud and obstruction charges lodged against him early last October. Williamson and several other persons were arrested. In all, the union during his tenure allegedly made at least $20 million in questionable, if not illegal payments to vendors without proper documentation. The case also serves as an example of why mixing union business and national politics, in any country, is an invitation to corruption.
A major reason why union leaders go crooked is because they see opportunities to steal. And few things provide those opportunities quite like a government sympathetic to union expansion. Australia would seem no exception. At the start of August, Michael Williamson, national president of that country's Health Services Union (HSU), resigned via text message less than two weeks after the leaking of findings of an eight-month investigation to the media had alleged a clear pattern of "stark favoritism" in union spending and contracting. The probe, which had begun a year ago, led to a May 2 raid by New South Wales (NSW) police on the union's East Branch headquarters in Sydney, now in government receivership.