Unions move to ditch Grocon-linked super fund

BUILDING unions are moving to sever their relationship with a major industry superannuation fund that has links to Grocon.

BUILDING unions are moving to sever their relationship with a major industry superannuation fund that has links to Grocon.

In a push that could cost the Cbus fund billions of investment dollars and tens of thousands of members, a coalition of building unions representing more than 80,000 Victorian workers will this weekend advertise in newspapers.

They will call for expressions of interest for replacement superannuation funds to Cbus, chaired by former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and whose board includes several Labor and union heavyweights.

The push, revealed by Fairfax Media last week, comes amid union anger that Cbus invests in other funds that use Grocon for their building work.

If Cbus acceded to the union push it could imperil Grocon's chances of winning work on lucrative projects.

Unions accuse Grocon of not respecting workers' rights a claim the builder rejects as part of the recent bitter dispute and blockade that shut down part of central Melbourne for more than a week.

Electrical Trades Union assistant secretary Troy Gray said Cbus, which has $18 billion in funds and nearly 700,000 members, had failed to adequately respond to its concerns about its investment practices. Mr Gray said Mr Bracks had not turned up to a meeting unions called with Cbus last week and unions were "extremely disappointed" with its approach.

Building unions wanted six of their key concerns addressed, including a review of current investment practices, new minimum standards so builders respect freedom of association and safety and annual meetings to allow "genuine consultation" with members.

Mr Gray said the response from Cbus had left the unions with "no choice but to see if there's other schemes out there".

He said while the campaign was concentrated in Victoria, there was support from other unions around Australia.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union state secretary Bill Oliver said the group was serious about seeking a new fund that could cover tens of thousands of its members.

"It's not about Grocon, it's about finding a fund that invests our members money ethically," he said.

A Cbus spokesman offered little comment but said the fund continued to "talk to all our stakeholders", including unions. A spokeswoman for Grocon declined to comment.

As part of the expression of interest, the building unions will ask for funds that have a commitment to "responsible investment practices". The push was condemned by Premier Ted Baillieu, while Labor's federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said he did not believe "industrial relations disputes should be ever played out at the boardrooms of superannuation funds".

Cbus is in a politically delicate position, with nearly half its board union leaders, including the CFMEU's Dave Noonan and ACTU president Ged Kearney.

Mr Bracks is appointed by the ACTU, while independent director John Dawkins is a former federal Labor treasurer.

Cbus invests in a number 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 in Sydney. Last year, Grocon built a 29-level tower in Sydney for Cbus and another fund.

The Grocon dispute concerned the appointment of shop stewards and the right to display union paraphernalia on sites.


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