SENIOR Labor minister Bill Shorten has attacked a push by building unions to target an industry fund with links to Grocon, saying industrial disputes should not be used to try to influence superannuation investments.
The comments from Mr Shorten, the Workplace Relations Minister, come as a coalition of building unions will meet Cbus chief executive David Atkin on Thursday to push for changes in how Cbus makes its investments.
Electrical Trades Union assistant secretary Troy Gray said the meeting with Mr Atkin would push for a new code of conduct to ensure that Cbus only backed firms that respected worker rights. He said the discussion would not be limited to Grocon.
"Our members don't expect that their hard-earned entitlements will fund these rogue builders," he said.
The $18 billion fund has almost 700,000 members and significant investments in the construction sector.
Since Fairfax Media revealed on Monday the push to target Cbus and its chairman, former Labor premier Steve Bracks, there has been little comment from the fund. A Cbus spokesman would not comment on the meeting or why Mr Bracks was apparently not attending.
Mr Shorten, a former union official and director with Australian Super, attacked the push by unions.
"I do not believe that industrial relations disputes should be ever played out at the boardrooms of superannuation funds, full stop," he said. "What matters is the best interests of the members of the fund."
The push by unions is delicate, with almost half the Cbus board current union members, including ACTU president Ged Kearney. The remainder are employer representatives as well as the independent director, former federal Labor treasurer John Dawkins, and the chairman, Mr Bracks.
Premier Ted Baillieu also attacked the union push and said it was outrageous.
Mr Shorten said there was no evidence that Cbus had been influenced by unions. "But what I know is that the Cbus fund, to the best of my knowledge, makes its decisions based on investment returns, and best interests of members."
Cbus invests in a range of funds such as Colonial First State, which has a strong relationship with Grocon and is using it for building work on a $430 million redevelopment of 5 Martin Place in Sydney. Last year Grocon built a 29-level tower in Sydney for Cbus and another fund.
Mr Gray rejected Mr Shorten's comments and said it was not part of an industrial strategy.
"Quite the contrary, we are doing exactly what progressive unions should do, represent their members' concerns," he said.
Grocon is suing the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union for $10.5 million after a bitter dispute in August and September that paralysed part of central Melbourne. Grocon has told the Supreme Court the picket line was a deliberate attempt to intimidate its staff.